Thursday, December 19, 2013

How do you prepare for steam sales? Here's how I do it



I'm looking forward to hearing from people to see how they prepare for steam sales.  Do you just buy all the games?  Only games under a certain price?

Here's how I prepare.
  TL;DR - I use a bunch of tools I wrote to save my wallet.

In preparation for the upcoming Winter steam sale, I gathered my thoughts on how to make the best of it. Here they are, looking forward to hearing your guys' thoughts and tips on how to make the most of the upcoming steam sales!
First things first, figure out how much you want to spend. I'll be using the Steam wallet to control how much I spend. I buy a set of amount of Steam credits to start the sale. Usually it's less than I plan to spend overall, but it gives me a goal to stay within. Then during the sale if I run out I buy another amount and try to stay within that.

Then, make a plan for what you want to get out of that money.
Choosing which games to buy and play is a complex personal decision. It involves past experiences with a franchise, developer, publisher or game Genre, preferences of the art style, controls, game mechanics, availability for your gaming system, available reviews and last but not least the cost. But even if the decision is ultimately a personal decision there is plenty you can do to prepare yourself and make the sale fun and rewarding.

Don't have a list of games you're interested in yet? Then you have some work to do! What kinda of gamer are you? What games do you tend to play a lot? Which games give you the best value? To answer these questions a buddy of mine and I started tracking all of our steam games in a spreadsheet. We tracked the name of the game, the cost we paid, the hours we played it and calculated the cost per hour we got from each game. After doing this for a few months we decided to build a site to do most of this for us. It's a work in progress and we're adding new features every few weeks, but it can help you answer these questions already. Here's what I did:
  1. Sign in: http://www.gaugepowered.com/
  2. Mark games you've finished as being finished.
  3. Fill out the costs for your entire library. It can be daunting if you own over 200 games, like I do. But it's well worth it. Focus on games you've finished, search your email records or use your steam account transactions to figure it out.
  4. Rate all of the games you have finished.
  5. Sort by the cost per hour column and go through and look at the games that gave you the best value looking for commonalities. Do you like open ended sandbox RPGs like the Elder Scrolls? Do you tend to play LAN CO-OP multiplayer Zombie Horde games with your buddies every Wednesday?
  6. Sort by the rating column and look at the commonalities in your highest rated games.
  7. While you're at it get a feel for the cost-per hour that is associated with games you liked vs those that you didn't like.
From this information, I've started to look for games in the following ways:
  1. My favourite gaming experiences lately have been with 3 friends and Left 4 Dead 2 or Killing Floor. I look for co-op LAN games on http://www.co-optimus.com/
  2. I look for at the highest rated games within the genres I like on steam: http://store.steampowered.com/search/?sort_by=Metascore&sort_order=DESC&genre=RPG&sort_by=Metascore&sort_order=DESC&page=1
  3. I look for the games with the most play time in a particular genre on gauge: http://www.gaugepowered.com/browse/?order=hours&genre=rpg
  4. I read the reviews for the game on http://www.metacritic.com/. This has helped me avoid bad console ports on steam.
  5. Wait for the steam sale thread on /r/games each day and read the redditor reviews which are invaluable.
For each game that I find that I'm interested in, I take into consideration many factors but perhaps the most important question I ask myself is: What is the price at which I'm certain I want to buy this game? The answer is different for each game. I take into account many things including how much I've enjoyed past games in the franchise. I paid far more for Left 4 Dead 2, Portal 2 , and Saints Row the IV than I did for Left 4 Dead , Portal and Saints Row the Third as I knew I was going to enjoy the experience. I also take into account the cost per hour I'm likely to get from a game. My personal threshold is to wait until games are well under $1.00 / hr before I'm willing to shell out for them. I also wait until I've finished prequels - so I won't buy Skyrim until I finish Oblivion .

Once I have a good feeling for the price I want to get the game for, I add them to my Gauge watchlist. Now, you can add games to your steam wish-list and it will ostensibly notify you when they are on sale - but I've never had that work during the sale and it also notifies me for silly sales like %10 off. The Gauge watchlist allows you to associate a certain price or cost per hour with the watch and gauge will email you when it it reaches that. If you have your list completely set up you can sit back and relax during the sale. Gauge Powered will do most of the work for you.

During the sale, I review the daily sales and look for games that aren't on my watch list. If I'm interested and they are cheap enough - I buy them. If I'm interested but they're not cheap enough - I put them on my watchlist. I read the reviews in the /r/games and /r/patientgamers and /r/shouldibuythis game daily sale thread and from those reviews I modify my notification thresholds or buy the game.

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