Over the years, I’ve bought dozens of Steam games on sale. Most of them, I ended up not playing, but the deep discounts on the ones I did play easily offsets the loss. I’ve learned a few lessons about how to buy games on Steam responsibly and I want to share them.
Wait for sales
Games which launch for $50-60 often go down to $30-40 within the year (if not less). And in 2 years, you can get them for $20 or even less. I don’t regret paying full price for certain games which I was extremely passionate about playing at the time, but in most cases, I really could’ve waited. If you have a lot of other games in your library, it may take a while before you play the game (so you may as well wait for the sale price).
Accept sunk costs and move on
We all have regretted purchases. Don’t feel obliged to play every game in your library just because you bought them. The expense was already paid and playing the game won’t get you your money back. If you’re not interested in the game, you’re not getting value by playing it. I’ve found it better to write it off as a loss than to waste time trying to justify the purchase by playing it.
Use the wishlist feature to block impulse buys
Last year I made a rule for myself that I would (usually) only buy a discounted title if it was on my wishlist prior to the sale taking place. This way I can be 100% sure that I’ve had prior interest and I’m not just buying the game out of impulse because it was cheap. Of course, this means I do fill my wishlist with games I am interested in (so that I can easily track games I want to play which are on sale).
Use the importance of your time as a metric.
Using relative price is not always a good metric. A game may offer a lot of hours of content for the dollar, but it’s also important that the content is quality. For example, I bought “Medal of Honor: Airborne” a few years ago because it was only $5. It was an 80%+ discount and from a sheer content to dollar ratio, it seemed like a good deal. However, I had already numerous games of the same genre which offered better enjoyment in time spent.
Stick to genres you know you enjoy.
I don’t want to promote closed-mindedness, but it’s also important to accept that there are just certain genres (and franchises) of games which you don’t care for. If you have a history of not enjoying titles of a certain genre, then be wary of buying sale titles which are of that genre. The majority of games I ended up not playing were from genres I simply didn’t like. Critics and fans may love a game, it may be highly influential, it may get perfect 10/10 scores, but if if it’s not for you, it’s not for you.
RPG’s are great for many people, but if you dislike long games with relatively slow progression, then they’re not for you. Strategy games are great for many people, but some people prefer to play games for relaxation rather than stimulation. Very difficult games like Dark Souls are great for a certain niche of people, but not good for gamers who don’t enjoy a high difficulty. In my case, I’ve noticed that I never personally enjoyed stealth games or beat-em-up games. As a result, titles such as Metal Gear Solid V and Batman: Arkham City would be great for many people, but were bad purchases on my part.
Lastly, don’t fret if you miss a sale.
For those relatively new to Steam sales, keep in mind that many games eventually go on sale again in a year or two (if not much sooner), so don’t feel pressured to buy them as soon as possible. I recommend taking it slow because at a certain point, if you’ve already bought a lot of titles, the sales will end up largely consisting of titles you already own.