Summer has returned, so here we are again at the launch or another Steam Summer Sale. The sale actually started yesterday, but I didn’t really feel the need to jump right on that with a post as I have done in past years.
I write about the annual Steam Summer and Winter sales as much out of habit as anything now, and it is beginning to feel almost anachronistic to do so. There is nothing wrong with the sales. But the faded enthusiasm within me is a faint echo of a time when these events used to be a big freaking deal.
Steam was a ground breaker, and Steam sales have been loved by many a gamer and hated by many a publisher for years now, to the point that the edge is gone. Everybody has a summer and winter sale now. Blizzard just sent me an email about one. Paradox always has one too that coincides with the Steam sales, in the hopes you’ll give them the money directly rather than giving Steam a cut.
But the landscape of video games has changed, and in a somewhat ironic way.
Back in late 2018 Tim Sweeney threw down the gauntlet, creating the Epic Games Store, with an eye to challenging the almost hegemonic sway that Steam held over PC gaming. He has thrown money at developers to get exclusives and rarely misses an opportunity to bad mouth Steam or to try and frame himself as the plucky upstart hero, omitting how rich the Unreal Engine and Fortnite has made him.
He has also gone after Apple and Google in his self-declared crusade to break down alleged monopolies.
And during that time the console barons, Microsoft and Sony, whom he let off the hook in his crusade, splitting extremely fine hairs to claim that their absolute control over their platforms was somehow different than Google or Apple or Steam. He vilified those three while letting the consoles off the hook.
Now, however, it is starting to look like Microsoft and Sony are going to be the real winners here with their competing game pass options growing out from their consoles onto the PC platform even as the acquire more studios so that they control content creation, platform, and sales channels.
The XBox Game Pass for PC… that is a damn sweet deal. A much younger me, a me that had the energy to dive into new titles all the time, would be all over that subscription, playing new titles every month and barely caring about Steam sales of Epic Games exclusives.
The young and hungry love an all you can eat buffet with new dishes being served up on a regular basis, while old favorites remain an option.
Sony is a little behind in that race, but not by a gap that they can’t bridge. They aren’t as all-in as Microsoft, but they have always been a somewhat conservative business. But they will get there.
I do not subscribe to either service at the moment, though I did do a trial of the XBox Game Pass back at the end of last year, playing a lot of Forza Horizon 5 as part of that. But there wasn’t much else I was completely sold on, so I let that lapse for now.
But at some future date Activision Blizzard will be part of the Microsoft stable of studios. There is a lot on that plate that could tempt me. I don’t think a WoW subscription will be on the XBox Game Pass, but if it was I’d be sold. That could lead to crazy thing, unhooking the WoW team from the box sale pressure somewhat, or at least letting their core audience dabble elsewhere and feel no need to drop the subscription that gives them access to Azeroth.
But that is all in the future, and in no way guaranteed. I am still not using the XBox Game Pass now, and don’t feel a real need to at the moment. But that could change as the options it offers grows.
Meanwhile, there is the Steam Summer Sale. I won’t toss that by the wayside either. My Steam library still represents a substantial number of titles, and my wishlist is not empty. I’ll go look at what is one sale and won’t be shocked if I am tempted into buying something.
But it isn’t the same, the Steam sales of a decade back, when they felt rare and the prices were so radically below our expectations that many people bought just because they thought they would never see that kind of discount again.
Instead, the discounts became the norm. It takes a serious sale to really rouse me to action for a title that I am not set on playing immediately. On the other hand, the site was pretty slammed yesterday during the first hours of the sale, so it remains popular. Also, I suspect that the sale has a reputation for first day errors in pricing that lead to unexpected bargains, so people were no doubt scavenging for some extra special deals before they got fixed.