Will we ever see less discounts on Steam?
No discount for the Autumn Sale
You probably haven’t noticed but some games are not “participating” in the Autumn Sale. Games likes Rimworld, Planet Explorers, Xenonauts and probably many more I don’t know about (it’s hard enough to find specific games with discounts during a seasonal sale so finding those without discounts is even more difficult).
My first thought was “well this is dumb, why give up the chance to make some more sales”. This is how I think because to me, these sales are pretty much how I make most of my money. Outside of them the money I make is depressingly low now. This is the reality of games doing just “okay”.
But then I asked myself what I’d do if my games were making the same kind of money they are making during sales when at their regular prices. It’s quite possible that March of the Living wouldn’t be 50% off right now. I mean, if I’d already be making decent money why would I rush to lower the value of my game? I could wait a bit longer and turn discounts into something much more significant when the time comes.
No additional visibility
For the vast majority of indie devs, the current Autumn Sale will be no more than a regular weeklong deal, probably even worse. Steam has decided that a bunch of AAA games and indie hits would appear on the front page during this “event” so chances are that only people having your game on their wishlist will notice that you are “participating” to this sale.
The main appeal of these sales as a dev is that you hope your game will received exposure it usually wouldn’t get. There are currently 13,579 games on sale right now so the fact your game is cheaper than usual really isn’t special. You could run the same discount the week before or after the sale and end up with the same results. If you remove all possibility of additional exposure then the appeal of this sale is quite diminished.
How much does your game really cost?
In an era of constant and expected discounts, the regular price of your game really doesn’t mean much. When $20 games can be bought for $5, all you need is a little patience and you can pretty much buy any games you want at the same price. By reducing the price of their games any chance they get, devs are simply making sure that $20 really means $5 after all.
It’s easy to blame devs for destroying the value of their games but when you make most of your money when your games are cheaper than usual you really don’t have a choice. I can decide to let my game at full price and make $250 in a month or I can use a discount and make $2,000 instead. Being proud that I don’t sell my game for cheap won’t help to pay the bills.
If your game is a bigger success and you already manage to make $2,000 or more per month though…
Don’t blame the little guys for this culture of discount
Many devs are panicking when they see a bunch of cheap games flooding Steam but the truth is these games don’t sell much or don’t sell at all. Even when I sell my game Bret Airborne for less than $3 I sell very few copies. If you’re tempted to blame me for destroying the value of all games then you’re looking in the wrong direction.
When I see top sellers reaching 40-50% discounts within a year though, I can’t help but wonder if these devs are just greedy. Sure, a 50% discount will dramatically raise sales and you’ll make a bunch of money but was money so bad to start with? If you’re already making a decent living then why rush with discounts and lose sales you could have made at regular price?
Someone will probably try to explain to me how the market works and I get it but my point here is that you can’t complain about games losing value when you’re using a scheme you wouldn’t really need to use after all. But of course, why leave money on the table if it can be in your pocket instead…
There will still be discounts tomorrow
It’s not about to end but maybe some devs will start to realize that they have nothing to gain from events completely ignoring them. We just got out of the Halloween sale and we’re already in another sale where games are handpicked so if you applied a discount twice but didn’t make the cut and your game was already doing very well then you just shot yourself in the foot.
I don’t know if it’s what really motivated the devs of Rimworld, Planet Explorers and Xenonauts but considering these games can probably hope to get a shot at a midweek madness or daily deal at some point that will give them a lot of exposure, it makes sense to think that they saw they had nothing to gain from the current Autumn Sale.