Steam: A premium service at a basement price

I’ve teased Az a few times about his ‘poor people’ life choices, be it not going with an iPhone or buying games for a few bucks less on a platform that isn’t Steam. The root of the teasing is that for most people earning a decent living, time is far more valuable than the amounts of money in question here, yet while Az has the money, he apparently loves throwing time away to save a buck or two. I will 100% of the time pay $5 more on Steam to save myself an hour of frustration installing or trying to play a game.

This got me thinking about Steam itself; in almost every way save for the actual price of games, Steam is a premium platform. Downloads are lighting fast, it’s as unobtrusive as DRM can be, the UI is top-notch, and it’s very feature-rich (friend list, achievements, profiles, wishlist, etc). If Steam never had sales and you regularly had to pay $5-$10 MORE per game, it would still be worthwhile for me compared to hunting down games across a bunch of sites and dealing with each sites downloader, patcher, etc.

But we don’t pay more on Steam. Hell, thanks to Steam we usually pay far less. Valve has, almost single-handedly, changed how PC gamers buy games and the price-points they do it at. I always laugh when console people make a huge deal out of a ‘buy two, get three’ sale, but the truth is that IS a huge sale on console games. A game at 50% off on a console is considered a steal, while almost every single day we look at games that are 50-75% off on Steam and consider that normal.

Most people and companies won’t resort to selling a cancer drug marked up 2000% to make a buck, but Valve is almost on the opposite end of the spectrum here; providing a premium service at an often-times outrageous discount. It’s good to be a PC gamer, unless you’re Az of course.

About SynCaine

Former hardcore raider turned casual gamer.
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18 Responses to Steam: A premium service at a basement price

  1. (Gotta put “http://” in front of URLs or they resolve to your own domain on

  2. Azuriel says:

    The short version is that I’m time-rich and enjoy optimizing my purchases whenever possible. For however frustrating my Fallout 4 and GTA 5 purchases ended up being, I saved a total of $26.86, which is an awful lot of other, cheap Steam games/Humble Bundles/etc. If my time was more limited, I could understand just going the full-Steam route.

    There’s zero way to justify an iPhone though, IMO. $600+ (financed or no) for a smartphone that’s obsolete in maybe 2 years is just dumb in comparison to the alternatives. My Nexus has a weird issue going on, but shit, I could just buy three more for the same amount of money and come out ahead if just 1 didn’t have the same problem. Nobody needs a GTX 980 to browse Reddit and play P2W games.

    • SynCaine says:

      How are you time-rich if you haven’t even finish Pillars? But yea, one additional game for hours of struggling isn’t a good trade for me; I don’t have time to finish all the games I have or want now anyway, and a play/don’t play decision never comes down to cost.

      The phone part is where we really separate. If my phone ONCE shut itself off or missed an alarm, I’d have a new one the next day. The premium paid for the device working 100% of the time vs 95% is more than worth it because of how important that device is. And much like with Steam, I’m not going to waste my time getting a new one, moving data, and setting up a new one because I got a lesser model originally. That’s just way too much wasted time/effort for me. The obsolete thing in 2 years is a non-factor, I’d upgrade the phone in that time anyway, because if nothing else, gaming demands it (games run like garbage on older phones).

    • Matt says:

      Well you actually only saved about 6 dollars on fallout, you could have gotten it for 48 at GMG like I did and received a steam key right away.

      But how are you time-rich if you have a full time job? With work, gym, wife and baby, I only have about 2 hours on average a day to play a game unless I stay up way too late (which I do sometimes). Even that sometimes feels like I’m neglecting some important duties. Take away all but the job and I’d have about 5 hours a day if I did nothing else.

      On the other hand at my current salary saving 10 dollars is like 15 minutes of work, so it’s not remotely worth it to grab that extra discount unless it is literally just right in front of me, like steam sale begins tomorrow or something.

      • Azuriel says:

        Well, you already said it: minus the wife/kid, you’d have at least 5 hours a day. Add in less than 8 hours of sleep, and suddenly you’d have a silly amount of time, as I do.

        Even if I were making your salary, I doubt my gaming deal behavior would change all that much. You know those shows about extreme couponing? I’m not that obsessed, but I do derive pleasure on the mere notion of getting a deal, even if the deal hypothetically isn’t worth the effort compared to working overtime or whatever.

        • SynCaine says:

          Which is why I tease you about it rather than calling you an idiot, because I know you know its perhaps not the most efficient way to go about things, but you actually enjoy the time spend while I view it as a barrier to overcome to get to the point (playing the game). You are that lady spending an hour cutting coupons to save $.30 on her thousandth roll of toilet paper. Do you man, do you!

  3. zaphod6502 says:

    “The root of the teasing is that for most people earning a decent living, time is far more valuable than the amounts of money in question here”

    Have to agree there. When I was younger in a low paying job I always searched for better deals when I had heaps of time. Now approaching my half century time is more important and not having to worry about money I look for whatever is easiest. Steam saves me a lot of time and I don’t have to worry about dodgy game keys (eg. Green Man Gaming).

    Everyone is different though and I am certainly not going to criticise anyone for trying to save a dollar. Some people enjoy bargain hunting and haggling.

  4. Mikrakov says:

    Steam offers great deals, unless of course you are Australian where they still only offer $US. I stupidly bought Fallout 4 through Steam thinking it was in Australian dollars, which ended up costing me $120 Australian dollars after the conversion from $US, whereas I could have bought it for $65 in a bricks and mortar store.

  5. I saw the Martin Shkreli (or evil pharma company) reference and I wanted to hit something.

  6. Dobablo says:

    Steam is the bulk-buy discount store of gaming. Slightly cheaper for what you want but piling up the extras and encouraging you to buy far more games than you’ll ever play. Steam costs me far more than any other comparative retail site. I might buy a $45 for $40 from Amazon. On Steam I’ll spend $50 for the same game (discounted to $30 plus 4 additional $5 games that I will never play).
    You lose out because you pay more. The main game publisher loses out because you paid less for their product. Steam wins because you paid more in total and the publisher best able to game the advertising/review wins because they got an incremental sale.

  7. Dobablo says:

    “For most people earning a decent living, time is far more valuable than the amounts of money in question.”

    Sometimes the act of minimising buyers remorse is far more valuable than the time taken.
    I feel bad if I later find the same product available elsewhere for less. Spending 15 minutes look for any cheaper discounts (and not finding them) might not make financial sense, but spending 15 minutes to prevent me feeling grumpy later does.

    • SynCaine says:

      I would agree with this if simply finding a cheaper game was the end of it, like say walking from one gaming store in the mall to the other to say $10. But it’s often not, as Az’s adventures in bargain hunting documented.

      As for the feeling of overpaying for something that goes on sale the next day, Steam has more or less conditioned me that, with gaming, that’s just going to happen, and unless I’m willing to wait until a game is $10 and then discounted 80%, I’ll almost never buy something on Steam that won’t ultimately be cheaper later, so I just don’t worry about it anymore.

    • Azuriel says:

      The buyer’s remorse thing is actually closer to the truth, I think. If I don’t buy a game while it’s on sale, but get the urge to play it after the sale is over, I feel bad. If I buy a game on sale, not get around to playing it for a few months, then see that it’s now cheaper (and I have thus wasted money for no reason), I feel bad. The actual dollar values in question are pretty much irrelevant.

      It’s weird, but in the scheme of neuroses, it could be worse.

  8. Esteban says:

    Yeah, time is definitely more valuable than money when it comes to video games. We’re in a buyer’s-market golden age, thanks in no small part to Steam. I think, however, that part of what makes a red-blooded gamer is the compulsion to beat systems, which spills over to stuff like deal hunting. So, while I buy my own games on Steam (and maybe a little GoG), I get where Azuriel’s coming from, kind of.

    Using ‘poor’ as a pejorative, especially as of the last decade or so, rubs me distinctly the wrong way, but that’s beyond the scope.

  9. bhagpuss says:

    You’re leaving laziness out of the equation. I buy things from places that are convenient (stores I pass by on the way to work, online retailers I am already set up to use) because I can’t be bothered to walk a bit out of my way or fill out a new set of online forms. You could call that “saving time” but it’s actually more about not doing any more than I have to do. If that means I pay more, so be it. It’s worth it.

    Of course, I hardly buy anything anyway so it’s something of a moot point. When i had a problem with my bank a while back and they needed to establish some facts about my use of my only bank card they weren’t able to find sufficient purchases on it to establish a recent buying history that satisfied their minimum requirements to prove I actually used it.

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