Impenetrable gamification and a creaking catalogue are making for increasingly bleak Steam Sales. Is this the twilight of the great online clear-outs?
This summer's Steam Sale is the worst I can remember. The whole thing's been "gamified" and all the games are old. I haven't bought anything. I'm not a giant PC gamer, but I normally pick something up because it's the Steam Sale and we're under legal obligation. Steam Sales usually spell borderline-free big budget games, but this time there's nothing I need. The Witcher 2 was decent at $3.99 on the first day and Far Cry 3 is always good, but come on: you haven't played them?
Mirror's Edge and Hotline Miami. Borderlands 2 and Saints Row IV. Torchlight II and Fallout: New Vegas. Myst and Syberia, for God's sake. Call of Duty: Ghosts for €30 is everything you need to know. It isn't Steam's fault, really. The big releases have slowed over the transition and the PC-only stuff is growing evermore niche. Steph grabbed Banished, which looks neat, but I've got to be honest: I've never heard of it.
I'd like to say this year's sale is more about oddities, but it feels more dusty pantry than Aladdin's cave. The most eye-catching thing I saw on there today was Murdered: Soul Suspect, but it isn't that great so the price isn't gigantically enticing. Space Hulk costs virtually nothing, I suppose. ArmA III for €22, is okay.
Regardless of the ailing content, Steam's sale "initiatives" are just getting bizarre. What are Steam trading cards? No one knows. I certainly don't, and I'll never read the text to find out. What's this? I just want to buy some games. Or not, as the case may be.
It's always fashionable to say you're bored of Steam Sales, of course, but this time it isn't tediousness as much as lack of relevance. There's a limit to how many times you can flop the same games back onto the butcher's block. I've played Torchlight II a lot, you know, and the catch-ups are less essential with every sale. I'm just not as eager to shell out for small savings on mid-tier games. I'm leaping at nothing. It doesn't feel as though there's anything to leap at.
Here today, GoG tomorrow
But let's be happy. The Steam Summer Sale's popularity has led to inevitable reproductions and increased choice. The GoG alternative raised my eyebrow slightly more than the milimetere Steam managed. Overlord and Sacred are yours for a few dollars, and there's certainly more in the way of intriguing rarities (rare, at least, to me). At least this stuff is properly old. Not just cracking a middle-aged limp and facing latter years with a pressed smile.
And it isn't just the PC chaps getting in on the "action," either. Sony's got a sale running today. Escape Plan PS4 could be yours for $11. Let the good times roll.
Maybe all this will be more exciting next year once we've had a Christmas-worth of next-gen releases. Maybe a Witcher 3 discount will get things moving. Maybe everyone's bought FTL now. Maybe everyone's realised that discounting your games to pennies isn't the best option if you need to be able to sell stuff at full price once in a while.
Maybe this is just an end-game of selling ancient content to hopeless addicts.
Of course, thanks to writing this piece I bought Metro Last Light from Steam. Plus ça change, and all that.