How to survive the Steam Summer Sale

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The 2013 Steam summer sale is coming. You can feel it in the air. The smell of flesh rending bargains is hard to miss. It’s one of the highlights of the year; a time of conspicuous and hilarious consumption, hosted by PC gaming’s favourite developers and publishers. But it is dangerous. To your humour. To your wallet. And to your sanity.

Valve have spent years researching, developing and experimenting on the best ways to convince you to part with your cash. They are thinking about the money flows through Steam harder than any of us. They’ve even got an in-house economist. They cannot be negotiated with. They cannot be stopped. They are relentless, and you are going to give them your money.

But you can protect yourself. We’ve put together this handy guide to help navigate Valve’s most dangerous sales. Read it, and be ready.

1) DO NOT BUY A GAME AT THE START OF THE SALE UNLESS IT IS PART OF A DAILY DEAL.

We’re putting this at the top, because if you can take one thing away from this piece, it’s this.

We’ll say it again.

Do not buy a game at the start of the sale unless it’s part of a daily deal.

At the opening of the sale, you’ll see that vast swathes of games have had their price reduced. But don’t be tempted. Don’t buy a game at it’s reduced price at the start of the sale unless it’s part of a daily deal. Even if a game is reduced in price immediately, it may well be reduced even further during Steam’s daily deals.

And we’ll say it one last time, just to be sure.

Do not buy a game at the start of the sale unless it’s part of a daily deal.

2)Make a list. Check it twice.

Steam has a wishlist: so make use of it. Before the sale begins, have a trawl the store and spot the games you want to play and add them to your pile of wants. Then arrange those wants according to just how much you want to play them.

This isn’t about getting yourself excited; it’s about instilling discipline. It’s about making a conscious decision to rule out purchases. The first few days of the sale are an assault of bargains and temptation. You can avoid temptation by doing your research beforehand.

You can go further than a simple wishlist. Dedicated bargain hunters keep a spreadsheet of the games I want to play, and how much I’d be prepared to pay for each. Then, as the sale unfolds, they compare the deals against their research.

3) Prepare a budget.

Work out what you’re prepared to spend, and stick to it. This is your opportunity to stock up on games you’d like to play at a later date. But be realistic about what you will and won’t play. If you underspend now, you can overspend at the Christmas sale. But if you overspend, you could miss your rent. And that would be rubbish.

4) Ignore the upsell

This is a controversial one, but it’s something we all believe: if you’re given a choice, go for the barebones package over the special edition with the DLC. You really don’t need the DLC.

Buy the base version, and then spend on the DLC if you do really enjoy the game and continue to play it. If you want some reassurance do some digging around the game’s Steam achievements – see what population of the playerbase has the achievements for completing the game. And then for completing the DLC. Your answer: bugger all.

It’s not just about the upsell on DLC. Think very hard about those publisher or pack bundles. Those bundles aren’t acts of charity by publishers who want to get their games out to the public. They’re there purely to drive your average spend upwards with the perception of value. The reality is that you’re unlikely to ever play what’s been bundled in the pack in question, but you’ve spent more than the one game you were really after.

5) Get the mobile app

There will come a time when you’re away from your PC when a deal strikes. Maybe you’re spending time with your *shudder* family. Or maybe you’re away on some fancy business trip. Don’t worry: you can still buy games from the web shop or the mobile app – but in the former case, you’ll need to make sure you’ve authorised the computer you’re buying from via Steam Guard – so check that you’ve got access to the email address you’ve registered your Steam account at. The iOS and Android mobile apps also allows you to queue downloads. Which is all kinds of amazing.

6) Don’t panic

If you do miss out an daily extraordinary deal, don’t panic. Many of the deals are repeated on the final day, as a kind of sales encore. So don’t just panic buy the game after the deal. Hold some cash back, and wait until the very last day of the sale.

7) Use the Steam Wallet

If you’re planning to buy a bunch of games over the sale period, consider adding a portion of your budget to the Steam Wallet. That way, you can avoid multiple small charges appearing on your card – and in turn avoid having the automated robots at your credit card company turning off the money tap. Just be sensible about the amount of cash you’re loading into Valve’s purse. Once the cash is in the wallet, you’re not getting it back.

8) Think gifts
Got a PC gaming chum with a birthday coming up? This is what Steam sales and the wishlist was built for. Remember, you can buy games as gifts and store them in your Steam inventory until the appropriate celebration.

9) Have fun
Retail is therapy. Enjoy it.

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