A Summer To Remember: Steam’s Summer Sale

The Steam Summer Sale has become more than just a period of epic low prices on quality games from quality developers. The Steam Summer Sale has become a bit of a summer sensation, the epitome of Christmas in July. Adding to the marketing hype this year was the later than expected launch date of the sale. The PC gaming community was already prepared to sink its teeth into the summer sales’ digital juices, the delayed start (compared to summers past) only made gamers salivate even more. My mouth runneth over, sadly my wallet doesn’t but I am thankful for the dishes Valve is catering.

Each year the sales get better. More games become available (with the addition of new developers and the games they bring with them), and the variances in the way the games go on sale increases. This year the Steam community has multiple sales scenarios pawing at their bank accounts. The usual daily deals continue to impress, as do the Pack Deals (discounts on a developers library of games). What really keeps a potential buyer coming back is the chance that the perfect game will have the perfect price, this is done through the Flash Sales. Flash Sales on the Steam page are short term sales on games with steep discounts (i.e. Fallout: New Vegas for under $5). In the words of Ron Popeil, “Wait there’s more.” This year Steam added the Community Choice pitch, where Steam users get to vote on the sale it wants to see next. Three games are listed with a corresponding discount, and based on the vote totals the next Community Choice sale is decided-it’s democracy and capitalism surprisingly getting along with each other.

What do all these discount variances amount to? Community engagement. Keeping your community interested in potential sales keeps them coming back, it’s page views with a bigger upside. It keeps your potential purchaser asking, “What’s next?” It’s working too. Sales figures are not made available but the impact of the sale has caused some angst with EA, who have complained about it cheapening the value of intellectual property, which means they can’t compete, and Steam is having another summer to remember. What EA? Your digital distribution application (Origin, still in beta) can’t compete with a distributor that puts PC gamers first (and has since its release to the public in 2002)? That shouldn’t come as a surprise. I think Valve’s Director of Business Management, Jason Holtman, put EA in its place with his tactful reply.

Valve was out front when it came to digital distribution and to stay there (as is the case for any tech company), they have to continue to lead the pack. More importantly they have to continue to put their communities’ interest inline with the interest of Valve/Steam. If they continue to cater to their community then the money will continue to roll in. With that being said, where’s Half Life 2: Episode 3?

Free to Play: The Death of Single Player Campaigns?

Will free to play [FTP] be the death of the enjoyable and immersive single player campaign? Will the new and continuing stream of ‘no charge’ game play become the substitute for the detailed story driven games we talk about with friends? The continued trend of developers offering FTP games could definitely have an impact on the single player experience.

Recently Steam, the leading source for digital gaming downloads on the PC, started making free to play games part of their distribution practice. This significant development by the most significant distributor is a sign of things to come. FTP is here to stay, has been for awhile, and is growing in popularity and quality.

Valve is even in route to develop their own FTP game (http://www.ology.com/technology/valve-working-free-play-game). Other big developers jumping on board include EA (Battlefield Play4Free) and Bohemia (Arma 2).

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Battlefield Free2Play doesn't look like the FTP flash games of old.

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Will the FTP genre replace the single player option though? Not entirely. Though the trend of developers going the FTP course seems pretty overwhelming at the moment take a look back to the massively multiplayer online [MMO] start-ups of the late 90s and early 2000s. Look in particular at Blizzard and World of Warcraft. Did it stop them from creating enjoyable single player experiences? No, just look at StarCraft II and, with fingers crossed, Diablo III.

The FTP craze will settle a bit. Developers will see it for what it is, another income generator of many. The business model of today (even more so for online based operations) are multiple sources of income, and that is what FTP is, that is what a MMO is – and that is what a game with a solid single player experience is as well. The real winners will be us gamers, and those developers who can combine those aspect effectively.

There will be some effect on single player campaigns. Some developers, whose sole focus is FTP, will muddy the waters with stitched together single player campaigns attached to, what they hope is, a micro transaction money maker. This has already been seen and will continue. Those who make FTP their focus and increase their audience appreciation (and therefor their subscription bases) with a worthy single player experience will rise to the top.

As gamers we will adapt to the new landscape of FTP and subscribe, spend money (micro-transactions), and support the communities of FTP games that make complete games. Those developers who market their games accurately by only making polished online experiences their focus will have an advantage over companies who try to market an all encompassing game (i.e. single player, online and micro-transaction based play) that gets nothing right.