Steamy Summers

Now that Steam’s yearly summer sale has come and gone, I wanted to share my thoughts on it as this year it felt slightly worse than blah. It’s hard to explain it, in previous big sales Steam is the place to go to get all the best deals. I’ve mentioned before, part of the reason that you deal with Steam’s craptastic DRM is because they give you the games at bargain basement prices. Well I never really felt it for this year’s summer sale.

A good case in point on this is Skyrim. Now they put the Legendary version on sale for 40% off as their big sale for that. Is not a terrible sale for a game that launched within the last year, but it isn’t very good for a game that has been out for nearly 2 years. I didn’t think it’d be at 75% off yet but I didn’t think that a 50% to 60% discount was that out of hand, and the original version without all the DLC wasn’t any cheaper.

Another example was Magic: The Gathering 2014 which didn’t see a sale at all, but I specifically remember buying it last year for 75% off for 2013, and both had been out for about the same period of time.

Ok these aside, there were some games that wer on sale for the 75-80% off but they just didn’t have any wow. I think part of what multiplied this was that many games saw the same sale several times. Skyrim for instance was on sale for 30% off through the entire sale event, and then hit 40% off for the daily, for a flash, and for the voted, and then again at the end for the encore. So 4 times. Ironically it was 50% off a day afterwords on Gamers Gate. This repetition got to me quite a bit by the end of the sale. I mean good lord do we really need the same game on sale several times in a two week period? Why not just stop the pretense of new sales by just having the same sale up the entire freaking time.

Overall I did feel that this year’s summer sale was the coming out party for Steam’s Level & Trading Card System. They’ve had them around for a few months now, but I feel like they added a ton of games to having cards, and they really promoted the cards through the voting interface where you got a card every 3 votes you did. And then another card for ever 10 dollars you spent. This was Valve really showing off the concept. It was also when I started to pay attention.1

I gotta say that I don’t mind the concept of the cards, it’s essentially a new version of achievements which are sometimes good sometimes bad, usually bad. The thing is with achievements that most game developers don’t really put effort into the achievements… Final Fantasy VII was recently released on Steam with an achievement to beat the first battle. You know that one that is designed for you to not lose? REALLY? Well the cards kind of side-step that by making them randomly appear while playing the game. Not at any particular point, just random points. Sometimes you get 3 in 10 minutes, sometimes it takes an hour to get one.

Theoretically this is actually not bad. I like the concept of getting an achievement for doing something difficult, but development companies are so irresponsible with them that I’d rather trash the idea as a whole than continue on with it. However, Steam is essentially making it easy. The companies don’t need to think, they just create some icons and backgrounds for it and boom they have achievements, it’s rewarded based on play great.

The problem is that they only let you earn half of the cards from the first badge of a game via actually playing it. The other half you get from booster packs which you get randomly from other people crafting badges (which require a full set of cards to get). On top of that, there are 5 levels of badges per game PLUS a foil badge from collecting all the foils cards. The average game has 8 cards. This means that the average game has 48 cards to attain before you get all the badges that game has… 4 of them you can get from actually playing the game! The rest you will need to get from boosters which only are granted from others completing a set and you getting lucky. And then those people can only complete a set by others completing a set and getting lucky.

You see the flaw? If everyone only gets 4 by default and 8 are required to complete a set, and a complete set is required to spawn a booster… how the hell do boosters EVER get created? Well that’s where the marketplace enters the equation. You see your 4 cards that you get are random which means there is a chance you are going to get the same card twice. You can then throw that card up on the market and sell it for a nominal fee, get that money and then take it to buy a game or other cards. This essentially means that the main way to get badges is to give other people money, of which Valve will tack on an extra 5% and the game company that made the game will tack on an extra 10%. OMG this is TERRRIBLE! The whole system screams as a cheap way to get money to me. Which clearly works cause I’ve sold many of my random cards to others. So really the system as it is seems to be a way to show off if you have more money to waste than other Steam users which is really an odd concept to me.

I really think that these cards should concentrate more on getting cards through gameplay and allowing the supplement with the market rather that making card gathering based on buying them in the market and supplementing them with playing the game. At the very least I think that half of EVERY LEVEL should be gained through game play. Because it isn’t that way, I feel that Steam Trading Cards is nothing more than a cheap scam to try to get an extra buck which is too bad.

Show 1 footnote

  1. Coincidentally, Get Games Go has a “Better than Steam” sale which is selling their games at lower prices than Steam was willing to go. Good for them!