Monday, July 4

Battle of the Bargain Bulge: My wallet's retreat from Steam's Summer Camp Sale

There are two times in a calendar year that I've come to fear. Times when reason is discarded on the promise of unbeatable prices, on all but the most recent of releases. I'm talking of course about Steam's two major sales: one in summer, one for the Holiday season, both causing unspeakable damage to the budgets and resolves of all but the most frugal of gamers. Now these sales are particularly painful for me because I am undisciplined and anything but frugal. People talk about their "pile of shame," but most can rest easy in the knowledge that their towers will be eclipsed by my quarry of unplayed videogames. I wish I could say that it was just digital acquisitions, but my desire to consume has led to a tangible and intangible mass of gaming gluttony. A mass that is only set to grow in size after some of the unbelievable offers that I’ve seen in the first few days of the Summer Camp bonanza.

 Beware of adorable marketing material!

Some of the offers seem too good to be true. Most would lead many (myself included) to question their preference for console gaming. Sure, the initial investment required to purchase a capable machine would be greater than the purchase price of a console; but at this crazy time of year, games can be three or so times cheaper than the console equivalent. Take yesterday's ridiculous Battlefield Pack as an example: $9.99 USD for one of last year's best shooters, Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and all available DLC. Compare that to the best price for a console version which is $29.95 AUD for the game, plus another $19.95 AUD for the Battlefield: Vietnam expansion (on PSN) and another $20 plus for the Onslaught and Spec Act packs. Now I own the game and all DLC on the Playstation 3 and I seriously considered buying it on PC. I wish I could explain the logic behind this impulsive purchase decision, but it took all of my self-control to remove the pack from my cart.

Best. Value. EVER!

Let's not forget about the publisher packs either. Some of these deals are so amazing that you had best bring some smelling salts or - at the very least - ensure that you are seated whilst perusing the Steam Store. The THQ Hit Collection is causing me the most headaches. Dawn of War II and each of its expansions (including the recently-released Retribution), the self-maligned Homefront, Darksiders, Red Faction: Guerilla and more for less than the recommended retail price of a Platinum game for the Playstation 3. To someone who has spent most of their time buying for and playing games on consoles, such a proposition is baffling, though irrevocably beautiful at the same time. What have I done to deserve such unbelievable prices, holy Steam?

I'm not just buying console ports either. The Summer sale will allow me to indulge in some smaller scale releases that I wouldn't normally purchase. Garshasp: The Monster Slayer and the Magicka Complete Pack will be my first indie acquisitions, but I'm also looking at picking up Jamestown and Terraria before this circus of value comes to a close.

Events like this will only serve to secure Steam's monopoly of the digital market. EA recently announced their "Biggest Sale Ever," via their Origin service (sale items also feature on the iOS App Store and Xbox Live Marketplace) which is not only exclusive to customers based in the US but also fails to offer anything anywhere near as enticing as Steam's near-fortnight of peerless savings. There are rare challenges to Steam’s ability to offer value for money. Recent examples include Good Old Games’ ( offer of extra store credit to Australian consumers who purchased The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings at the inflated Australian region price and perhaps also, their Interplay “Staycation,” which allowed gamers to pick up the first two installments of the Fallout franchise in addition to turn-based RPG spin-off, Fallout Tactics for just under three US dollars each. GamersGate are worth a look as well, for sure; but ultimately, nothing beats a good Steaming.

Have you been indulging in the sale? Do you cherish these times of the year, or, have you come to fear them like myself?

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