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Super Tips for Steam Sale Newbies (and Vets)

Posted by BigSpoonyBard, 28 November 2011 · 6220 views

So you're on Steam and you're really jealous of those folks who have hundreds of games in their libraries. Well, here's how you do it.

Steam Pro-tips

  • Set maximum per-game prices and minimum discount levels for yourself.
    • I suggest a max of $10 per game IF you're going to play it right away ($5 if you're really stingy, which you should be) and a minimum of 66% off regular price, preferably 75% (Under $5 and 75% off? Now you're in the ballpark).
    • Games will always get cheaper, so there's not much reason to spend over $5 on a game unless you really want to play it now.
  • Look for bundles (publisher packs, series packs, theme packs, etc) to maximize your per-game cost savings.
    • During the major sales (Summer and Winter) many publishers have complete packs available (THQ, Square/Enix, TellTale, Bethesda, etc) that include everything (or a broad selection of) offered by that company on Steam.
    • These don't hit daily deals (with the exception of franchise sales, which sometimes combine games into a pack), so pick them up whenever you want. You can often get a ton of games at an 80% or higher discount.
  • Watch for group buys (4-packs, etc) to save a bit extra.
    • Generally occurs with multiplayer games.
    • Check the game's store page to see if it's available in a multi-pack. These packs lower the per-game cost by a bit extra, often about a dollar or so.
    • Use the Steam Group Buy Thread to jump in or host a multipack. You'll either paypal someone the money or get paypal and gift the extra copies.
  • Don't buy anything that isn't a daily deal until the end of the sale.
    • Much of the Steam library is on sale for 50-66% off during major sales. Don't be tempted by this.
    • There is always a chance a game will hit 75-90% off during a daily deal. If it hasn't hit a daily by the last day of the sale, feel free to consider the regular deals.
    • In general, a daily or flash deal will be the lowest a game goes during a sale. You can almost always feel confident buying these deals.
  • Consider your backlog
    • It's easy to get excited about games being on sale, but are you going to play your new games in the very near future? If not, waiting for the next (or the next, or the next) sale could save you even more money on the very same game.
    • One, the other, or both of two things happen to games over time.
      • The retail price goes down
      • The discount gets higher
    • Combine those elements, and you can be saving mucho money over the long haul.
  • Grab price flukes
    • Does the price on that daily deal look WAY too low to be real? It probably is. Grab it now before Steam realizes it and adjusts the price.
    • This doesn't happen too often, but be ready if it does. It will happen at the sale chang-over (1pm EST/10am PST)
  • Look for Pre-order bonuses
    • Sometimes an additional discount on other games will be offered if a new game is pre-ordered. You can take advantage even if you aren't pre-ordering!
    • Steam allows people who have pre-ordered to buy multiple gift copies of the games receiving extra discount.
    • There are many kind and generous CAGs who will buy for you (in exchange for Paypal) if you ask nicely.
  • Check the price history
    • Sure, it's a daily deal, but that doesn't mean it's the cheapest it's ever been.
    • Install Enhanced Steam (created by CAG's own Jshackles) to get instant info on every game on Steam: lowest historical price, lowest current price, number of times it's been bundled, etc.
      • Enhanced Steam is a serious wallet-saver. Don't shop Steam without it.
    • If it's been on sale at a lower price previously, hold off. Odds are it will hit that low point again in a future sale.
  • Scour the indie/older games
    • The PC indie game frontier has really blossomed in the last few years. There are many quality titles available for a fraction of the cost of the AAA games.
    • Steam also has a decent (not great, but decent) selection of classics.
    • Sort the Steam store for games by pricegoing lowest to highest. Browse through the selection of games offered for $1-$3 (There are lots!).
  • Follow the Steam Deal Thread
    • The Steam Deal Thread is the place to go for recommendations and hidden gems.
    • Just remember that no one knows if a game will go on sale. Every game has a decent chance of being on sale. If you follow these rules, you won't have to worry anyways.
  • Find deals not directly on Steam
    • Some games have the option to register on Steam no matter where you got them (Amazon, Gamestop, etc) if you have a key. A (generally) complete list of games that can be used this way is located here.
    • Steamworks games require activation on Steam. These also can be purchased anywhere else you find a good deal.
    • GamersGate is an excellent place to buy Steam-redeemable games (and non-Steam games, too!) as you earn Blue Coins equivalent to 5% of your purchases. You can then use those Blue Coins to buy games. Win!
    • Blue Coins can also be earned by rating and/or reviewing games, writing walkthroughs, and other activities on GamersGate.
  • Find freebies and bonuses where you can
    • IGN Prime offers a free game (usually Steam redeemable) every month for members (not that you'd want to pay)
    • Our very own Carlmundo's website, Who's Gaming Now, quite often has the hook-up
  • Follow the indie bundles
    • Some fantastic bundles have been offered up from the indie scene at pay-what-you-want (with a tiny minimum) prices
    • Most of the games in these bundles include Steam keys. This allows you to get several games into your Steam library for $5 or less!
    • List of recurring bundles we happen to like:
    • Note On Desura
      • IndieRoyale and other bundles also offer Desura keys for many of their games. Desurais a great second platform to have on your computer if you play a lot of indie games, and it works much like Steam (though not quite as elegant or deal-busting).
  • Make some money off the games you've bought
    • Many games now have Steam trading cards, which drop while you are running the game. They serve no real purpose except for showing off your e-peen (which doesn't help you buy games) or selling them.
    • Most cards sell for $0.05 - 0.10. That doesn't sound like much, but when you consider that each game could have 3-5 card drops and multiply that by a bunch of games, you can find yourself with a fair stack of Steam Wallet to spend.
    • Two small extensions/programs will make the collecting and selling process painless.
    • Idle Master (from the same folks who brought you Enhanced Steam!) is a small program that allows you to "play" your games without playing (or installing!) them. Just turn it on and wake up in the morning with a stack of cards to sell.
    • Steam Inventory Helper is a Chrome add-on that allows you to quickly sell multiple cards at once by using a default price based on current low card price. Set it for a penny or two under the current low and watch your nickels roll in.
Half the fun of Steam is trying to maximize your savings. Follow these tips, and you'll have a massive Steam library on the cheap in no time.

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Save Yourself Some Effort When You Shop on Steam!

Good tactics.
Agree. Part of the fun is trying to get a great deal. Also not sure if worth noting but those individuals with Bethesda Insiders access get free steam games from their site (including Brink, Rage, and SKYRIM!)
nice tips
Good note, Gharik. I'll add a note about outside sites offering promos.

Edit: Or maybe I won't. Every time I try to edit the post and add stuff, the formatting goes nuts.
Really great list you have there. Here's one more pro-tip:

Check the game's forum for any feedback regarding compatibility. Sometimes, a game will or will not work on certain setups. I can't even count the number of times I've been burned by buying up deals only to later find out that I can't run the game. Thankfully, there was always a hotfix available.
Just Noticed this in your sig. Great post. Kudos!
I have almost 200 games on my steam library following these tactics. I'm blaming you for the fact I'm never going to run out of games now. ;)
Awesome information!!
Excellent list and write-up that was clear to understand. I already knew most of these, but still picked up a couple of tidbits. This is mandatory reading for CAG Steam n00bs.
Thanks for this.
thank you, OP!
Thanks, totally new to this!
Awesome resource.
The backlog consideration tip is so true. Great tips for everyone :) Thank you!
This is the most incredible thread I've ever read in my whole life. Nothing has ever spoken to me as beautifully as it. It's like a wonderful song that brings joys and tears to my eyes. Thank you!
Even though I consider myself a vet at this point, I always love re-reading this tome of great wisdom before heading into battle. May the Great Coconut forever be with you, oh mighty, and generous BGCQ.
Updated to remove the outdated info about the IGN/GG discount and added a linky to Jshaq's Enhanced Steam extension (A must have!)

You should add a bit about how if a game is a featured deal (daily/flash/community) it won't be going any cheaper.