Thanks to the frequent sales, PC games just cost less than console games. If you’re patient and know the tricks, you can save quite a bit of money. Almost every game seems to regularly go on sale.
Since Steam started holding their regular holiday sales, the sales are coming thicker and faster than ever. From bundles and other stores undercutting Steam to the constant sales on Steam itself, an environment of constant sales is the new normal.
Steam is all about the sales. If you can be patient, you’ll save a huge amount of money on PC games. Almost every game on Steam regularly goes on sale, often 75% or more off.
Steam is constantly holding smaller sales–daily deals, weekly deals, mid-weekly deals, and weekend deals. Sometimes you’ll even see a game you can play for free during a weekend deal. These sales are advertised on Steam’s front page so you can quickly glance at them.
The most noteworthy Steam sales, however, are the huge seasonal sales when almost everything on Steam is discounted. If you’re patient, you can stock up on games during these sales and play them throughout the rest of the year–or at least until the next seasonal sale. Valve doesn’t have an official schedule of these sales, so their dates vary from year to year. However, we have some idea of when these sales are. The largest seasonal sale is the winter holiday sale, which runs for about two weeks in late December to early January. There’s also a fairly large summer sale and other, smaller sales for events such as Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Halloween.
Here’s the biggest trick you need to know for Steam holiday sales: Don’t buy a game unless it’s a daily deal, flash sale, or community choice deal. For example, for the entire duration of a holiday sale, a game might be 50% off but when that same game is featured as a daily, flash, or community choice deal during the sale, it might be 75% off instead. The lesson is clear: Don’t buy a game during a big sale unless it’s a featured, temporary deal. If any games don’t show up at a larger discount, you can always grab them on the last day of the sale for their normal discounted price.
If you’re willing to be patient before playing a game, you can add it to your Steam wishlist and you’ll get an email from Steam when it goes on sale. You can also view your wishlist from within Steam and quickly see each game’s discount and price. This is very useful when you’re deciding what to buy during a big sale. You can quickly skim through the sales on the games you’re already interested in. (However, multi-store wishlists like IsThereAnyDeal.com–which we’ll talk about more later in this guide–are more useful in the long term.)
Game bundles are a constant presence in PC gaming. Humble Bundle started this craze, offering regular pay-what-you-want bundles of well-received indie games.
There are other bundle sites that are occasionally worthwhile if you’re looking for something in particular, but Humble Bundle is still the most consistent site with the bundles containing the highest-quality games. In addition to their regular indie bundles, they also offer weekly bundles of other games.
Steam was the storefront that really pushed sales hard, but it’s not all just about Steam anymore. There are other stores that often match or beat Steam’s deals. If you like having all your games in one place within Steam, there’s good news: many of these stores actually sell Steam keys, so you can purchase the game cheaper elsewhere and add it to your Steam account. This only works for games that are specifically marked as requiring Steam.
For example, Amazon’s digital games storefront regularly beats Steam’s sale prices on many games, even while offering Steam keys for many of them. Other sites, like Green Man Gaming, also offer juicy discounts. Humble Bundle now also offers the Humble Store, another site where you can find regular sales on games you can add to your Steam account.
Steam doesn’t always have the best price, so many gamers are now so into Steam that they can afford not to always have the best discounts. Other sites that want to compete have to offer good deals. For example, during the last Steam holiday sale, the Game of the Year (GOTY) edition of Borderlands 2 was discounted to $30 on Steam, but the exact same Borderlands 2 GOTY edition was available for $15 on other sites during the Winter sale.
Keeping Track of the Sales
Aside from using your Steam wishlist to stay on top of Steam sales for games, the constant flood of sales can be hard to keep track of. If you’re interested in seeing a comprehensive list of the latest PC game deals, you can check the latest sales with a quick glance at the gamedeals subreddit. This subreddit isn’t just about PC games, but most of the deals here are for PC games–it just goes to show how much more common discounts are on PC games.
There are also other sites you can use to stay on top of deals. IsThereAnyDeal.com gathers together all the latest deals and prices from multiple sites. You can look up a specific game and see the price many different stores are currently selling it for, see a price history, and view the lowest price a game has ever been at.
Best of all, though, you can sign up for an account and create a wish list of all the games you want, and get notified whenever a game goes below a price threshold you set. You can even limit it to versions of games that activate on Steam, so you’re always getting the lowest price–no matter what store you buy from.
Sales are awesome, but remember that the point of buying games is to play them! Many people have amassed a huge backlog of games they may never play. There’s no need to buy so many games that you can’t play them all–those games will probably go on sale again soon, anyway.
Image Credit: Jorge Franganillo on Flickr