Steam Sales have a well earned reputation of swallowing whole gaming budgets and leaving "unsuspecting" PC gamers dumbstruck in front their screens wondering where all that money went. Here are a few simple guidelines to lessen the impact of a Steam Sale on your retirement fund.
If you have never experienced the sensation of I can't believe its only £5 for ten straight days, then you are among the lucky few. Steam Sales have a way of plugging into some very basic instincts that result in obliterated savings, bloated game libraries, and post-sale buyer's remorse. But there is hope. You can easily avoid exchanging your education/food money for games you might never play by keeping a few simple things in mind.
Talking to yourself might make you look like a crazy person if you are doing it publicly, but it's safe to ask yourself some fundamental questions in the comfortable privacy of your gaming corner. Do it out loud if need be.
Am I going to play this game?
It's a fairly straightforward yet often ignored bit of common sense. Before you buy, ask yourself a simple question - do I really want to play this game, or did I just get hypnotised by a little green box with some numbers inside? This failsafe is easily implemented, and only requires minimal amounts of restraint. Make sure you have a 15 minute window between Shut up, and take my money! and clicking that Add to Cart button.
Do I really need the entire bundle?
Deciding if buying a publisher/series bundle or just a single game contained in a pack seems like a no-brainer once you get into that I want to play this series from start to finish mindset. But, ask yourself if it's really worth pouring money into a bundle, when you aren't at all certain whether you will like or ever finish that one game from the series you are actually keen on playing, let alone the whole thing. Buying in a bundle usually results in 90 per cent of that acquisition never getting as far as the installation screen.
How long would it take me to beat these games?
If by answering that question you arrive at a number that is in the triple digits, then it might be better to reconsider. It may be a good idea to keep a total playtime notebook next to your keyboard during the sale. Once the collective playtime of your purchases blasts past 900 hours, it is quite possible that you just made a few decisions that were driven by impulse, rather than common sense.
But Telxvi, I am one of those people who has even less self-control than Peter Molyneux at a press conference, and I lose track of money super fast. What do I do?
Set some boundaries
Pay a fixed amount of money into your Steam wallet, and don't pour any more money into it until the sale is over. This approach might not guarantee success, but you will at least have a few extra steps between what your budget allows for within reason, and signing away your liver because too many games were 66 per cent off just 3 months after release.
Keep tabs on progress
That notebook you have next to your keyboard for calculating total playtime can easily double as a great tool for keeping track of how much money you already spent on the sale - while it's still ongoing, and not after the fact. If you are trying to figure out how much you spent three weeks after the discount mayhem, then it might be a little too late. Having a physical notebook might also help by getting you to look at something other than your screen and the Steam storefont.
Get yourself a wingman
If you have a history of abandoning all reason during Steam Sales, get someone to watch over you. This may sound extreme, but if you are considering it as a serious option at all - extreme measures might actually be necessary. Depending on how hard you prefer to be policed it may be a good idea to decide whether you want your guardian angel to be a gamer themselves or not. Both variants have their pros and cons, so figure out what your needs are and choose wisely.
These are all preventive measures, but a lot of us are weak and fragile - especially when it comes to large amounts of seriously discounted gaming goodness. There are also ways to ride the line.
Adhere to your wishlist
Most Steam users will have a more or less densely populated wishlist, and Valve will kindly notify you if an item from your list goes on sale. Simply don't browse the storefront obsessively during the sale. When one or more games you have your eyes on does go on sale, try to remember why you put them there in the first place, before you instapurchase.
Install and play right away
A good way of double checking your own purchases is to download and fire up a game as soon as you add it to your library. This puts a bit of an additional safety buffer between you and your next purchase, as you might realise that you made a bad call with your current haul during installation, or alternatively after you are 15 minutes into a title. This has become a lot easier since flash sales aren't a thing anymore.
You can always get a refund
Providing you have a half-decent internet connection, you can buy, download, try and refund a game well within Steam's 2-hour no questions asked refund policy. This might not work as brilliantly during busy sales times, or Valve might actually realise that you are just trying on every pair of underwear in the store before putting it back on the shelf, but it's always worth a shot. Worst case scenario - you will have a clear conscience knowing you tried to keep your spending in check, even if the odd refund doesn't get approved.
Unless you happen to be high throughout the entire Steam Sale, or have more severe impulse control issues, this guide should help squeeze at least some measure of method into the sale season madness. Time to go and grab some of those 90 per cent off goodies, all sensible-like. Good luck, and may Gabe have mercy on our wallets.