Steam sales: How deep discounts really affect your games
Steam sales are always popular among consumers, but how do the major discounts affect the developers themselves? In the wake of the 2012 Summer Sale, we spoke with a number of teams to find out.
Valve's Steam sales have always proven a great time for consumers to score some cheap PC games, but over the past several months, there's been some debate over whether these promotions are good for game developers. Some have argued that the major discounts devalue games, and end up hurting the industry in the long run. But according to a number of developers that took part in this year's Steam Summer Sale, that doesn't seem to be the case. The teams who've discounted their games during this or previous Steam sales have found that the promotions not only attract more sales, but also generate more revenue and breathe new life into aging products. Runic Games CEO Max Schaefer, for instance, tells us that while it's been almost three years since his studio launched Torchlight, Valve's Steam promotions have helped the game maintain healthy sales to this very day. "We find that we get several thousand percent increases in units and revenue on the days of the Steam sales, and unit sales are usually about double the normal for a few weeks after the sales are over," he says. This year's Summer Sale (which ended July 22) was particularly noteworthy for Runic, as it helped Torchlight hit its second biggest day ever in terms of overall unit sales -- not bad for a game that came out in October 2009. And Runic's case doesn't seem to be an anomaly; Supergiant Games' Amir Rao tells us that these Steam sales have proven more lucrative than his game's initial debut. "A lot of times we judge the success of a game -- and predict its sales -- by looking at its launch day numbers. Steam sales have made that delightfully impossible. Our launch day [for Bastion], which we viewed as very strong, is only our fifth best day of sales ever on Steam due to the power of the promotions we've had the opportunity to participate in," Rao says. According to indie developer and Super Meat Boy co-creator Edmund McMillen, these promotions can increase sales to an almost staggering extent. His 2D dungeon crawler The Binding of Isaac, for example, saw sales multiply by five when it was marked down by 50 percent, and once it hit the front page as a temporary "Flash Deal" (for 75 percent off), sales multiplied by sixty. Believe it or not, those figures aren't all that unusual. Valve's director of business development, Jason Holtman, says plenty of developers have seen their sales increase exponentially, giving them a very healthy boost in revenue. "It's not uncommon for our partners to see [a] 10-20 times revenue increase on games they run as a 'Daily Deal.' Some titles really take off and see as much [as a] 70-80 times increase in revenue," Holtman said.