Death By Discounts

I almost made it through a Steam Sale without buying anything this past weekend.


Deeply discounted games are something of a weakness for me. While I have mostly managed to curb the “ZOMG MUST BUY NAO!!!1!” reaction, I still fall prey to what I see as especially good deals. My main challenges come from Steam Sales and Humble Bundles. Both have resulted in a grossly inflated personal game library.

Steam Sales, I guess you could say, are where it all began for me. Steam, for those of you who don’t know, is a digital distribution platform owned and operated by Valve Software, the company behind games like Half-Life, Team Fortress 2, and Portal. I’ll admit I was skeptical of the service at first; I like having physical copies of the products I own (games, music albums, etc.). But the service has grown on me over the years, sinking its pseudopods deep into my limbic system and turning me into a willing thrall.

One of the biggest ways it did so, besides ease-of-use, and the frequent and deep discounts they have. Since it’s a completely digital service, a discount of 50% to 75% off (or even 90% in extreme cases) doesn’t risk running afoul of manufacturing overhead. I feel less nervous investing in a service that might go offline one day (probably not any time soon, but the chance is still there) when I’m only investing pocket change. After all, $5-$10 for a game is pretty much an impulse buy for me. Not all the time, mind you; that would add up quickly. But the occasional purchase, roughly equivalent to a (cheap) movie or eating out can provide hours of entertainment.

But if Steam Sales are my cocaine, then Humble Bundles might as well be crack. These limited-time deals bundle several games together, which would be dangerous enough by itself. But the temptation is compounded by the pay-what-you-want pricing structure: you can put as much (or as little) money as you see fit towards the games, as well as various charities. And once the fortnightly sale is over, the bundle is gone for good. I’d like to think I’m doing some good, donating to charity, but let’s be honest: it’s a really cheap way to get some good games.

Given how long I’ve had Steam, I’ve started to become fairly inoculated to the deals. Sales happen often enough, that the chances of a specific game being discounted when I’m ready to play it some time in the future are quite high. I’m more susceptible to the Humble Bundles right now, as they are very much limited, one-time offers. I’ll often assuage my conscience by only donating between $5 and $15, but paying too little comes with its own baggage: as noted above, these bundles also benefit charities (like the EFF and Child’s Play). There’s even other bundle groups out there, that sell things like ebooks.

So what’s the point of this post? I don’t know. It might be a relatively ineffectual attempt to justify my huge games library. It might be a way to lament my poor impulse control. It might be a warning to others, against the siren song of discounted entertainment. It might be all those things.

And for those of you who were wondering, it was the newest expansion for Civilization V that ended up breaking my resolve this morning, the last day of the sale.

3 thoughts on “Death By Discounts

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