Spanish version here
Today I'm going to talk about Steam Sales from the point of view of a publisher, and also give answer to some mysteries and curiosities about them. I hope you like it!
Several people asked me if it's worth setting a game on sale in Steam where the publisher earns less money per game. Well, Steam Sales offers to publishers a great opportunity to sky-rocket the sells. I mean sky-rocket, not just raise.
It all works like this:
First of all, Steam keeps the 30% of the game, no matter the price, so if a game is sold for $10, Steam will keep $3 while the publisher will earn $7. If the game is discounted 50%, Steam keeps $1,5 and the publisher earns $3,5.
(taxes, currency exchanges, bank commissions, and other stuff are to be taken out)
Let say that someone sells 20 games per day at full price. Well, during a day in Steam Sale like Summer Sales or Christmas Sales, sells can raise to 1000 games per day.
If selling 20 games at full price one can earn $140, selling 1000 at half price one earns $3,500. As you figured out, really worth it.
But if Steam promotes the game showing it in the main page of the Store, like in a "Flash sale" (those that last 8 hours), then figures sky rocket to 20.000 - 40.000 sells in only 8 hours. In these super-sales, games are much more discounted, let's say 80%, so one gets $1,5€ per game. This generates $30.000 - $60.000 in just 8 hours. Of course, only a few games have the privilege to be part of these sort of super-sales.
Another curious fact is that, when external bundles or sales are running, Steam sells are slightly affected. For instance, Unepic took part in the Humble Indie Bundle 14 that sold around 180.000 units during a week or two, I don't remember the exact time. Anyway, during this period, I was expecting a drop in the sells in Steam because, who was going to buy the game at full price when it was available for less money and even having 8 extra games?
Curiously, sells only dropped around 20%, and raised again once the bundle was over.
Does Steam force you to set the game on sale?
Absolutely not. Sales are a free choice and one can take part in them if wished. Even more, the publisher is free to select the percentage of discount in a game.
Besides, one can create his own sale. They don't tend to be as profitable as the ones Steam does because it is not announced anywhere, and only players with the game in their wish list will be notified.
The "Wish list"
One of Steam's cool features is the "Wish list", that basically lets a player mark a game as "wished". This is a good ally of a publisher because when a game is set on sale, Steam will notify the player with the game "wished" which helps a lot in selling the game.
This may also cause that games come out with a small initial discount because, apart from encouraging new users to buy it, it also notifies those who already have it in their wish list.
To buy before a sale
Steam provides publishers wonderful charts that show daily sells, even by hour, of the games they have published. When in a sale, we can see how these charts raises.
But these charts, these few thin lines, are in fact reflecting the purchases and dreams of a lot of players. So when I see them I think about the few people who purchased the game just before the massive peak of sales. Then I think... How does the player that spent his money in a game, and a few hours later sees that same game on sale feel?
Today, the day I'm writing this article, my last game called "Ghost 1.0" went on sale in a "Steam Daily Sale". Just to avoid this situation, I announced via Twitter and Steam forum that the game would be on sale today. So if anyone was thinking in purchasing the game, he should be notified and won't feel sad because of it.
But due to destiny, after a few minutes Ghost 1.0 was on sale, I read a post of a player that wrote the following words:
"Awwww, it went on sale. I bought this in the wee hours this morning and then see it went on sale. Haha, i don't mind paying the full price for this one bit. Has been very entertaining so far."
When I read it, I saw right that player who buys the game just before a sale, that person that makes a "20" appear in the chart before the peak of the sales. So I sent him a friendship request that was accepted a few minutes later, and we've been chatting a little.
I introduced myself and confessed him that I was regretting his situation, so I told him that if any DLC was coming out I should gift him. Curiously, the guy thanked it, but told me that it was not necessary at all. He was happy with the game and he would also purchase the DLC as soon as it came out. So, I understood that there are players who really know how to appreciate the value of something they are enjoying, and that made me be proud of this kind of people.
The final peak
The last hour in a sale is curious: sells raises even more. It's like the player was waiting the last moment to purchase. Why?
A theory I have is that the player waits until the last moment just in case another cool game appears in the same sale. It's something Steam used to do: in some sales, Steam asked us, the publishers, a default percentage of discount and a deeper one for short periods. So one can set the game 25% on sale during the whole period, and 75% during a day or 8 hours.
Another theory that bounces inside my empty skull is that, during these sales, the player makes a choice of the games he wishes and buys them right before the end. Maybe to prevent discovering a better game when he already spent all his money?
Purchasing after a sale
Another curious fact is that, an hour after the sale are over, the logical thing would be that nobody purchases the game, or have very little ones. If someone wanted to get the game, he should do it during these sales. Specially in Summer and Christmas where all games are on sale and everyone knows perfectly when the sale period will end.
Well, going back to the charts, I find out that after the euphoria of those days of sales, purchases return to its normal level. But curiously, there are people that purchase the game those durig these few hours just after the sales. Said in other words, there are players that pay the full price of a game an hour after the end of the sale period.
What should that player maybe thinking?
One hypothesis: during sales a big amount of new players may get it, and they may spread the word. Due to this, there could be people that knew of this game right after the sales are over or just because he could not go back home to purchase it on time.
However, two days ago, during a videogame event, I was speaking about Ghost 1.0 and, as I knew that today the game would be on sale, I informed everyone about it. The fact is that Enrique, the organizer and host of the event (a nice guy with a cool voice) told me "I'm going to wait until the sale is over to buy the game at its full price to support the developer".
It was not the first time I heard something like that, yet someone told me the same in the past, and maybe part of the people that purchase the game right after the sales period ends are just this kind of people that once again think more in the work and the effort that there is after a videogame, than just saving a few bucks.
Thanks for reading!
And once again, apologizes for writing in Franglish.