Steam's multiple sales events are hugely popular with gamers. They are one reason why the download service is growing so quickly. Sales are also a useful revenue source for game developers.
But do they cause harm to game fans?
That's the argument being made by Jason Rohrer, developer of massively multiplayer online burglary game The Castle Doctrine, which is due for a full Steam release on Jan. 29. He said that sales persuade players to hold off on playing games when they are launched.
"Your fans love your games and eagerly await your next release," he wrote on his blog. "They want to get your game as soon as it comes out, at full price. But they are foolish to do that, because a sale is right around the corner. Even in economic terms, the extra utility of playing the game early, at release, is not big enough to offset the extra cost for most people . It makes more sense to wait, unless they love you and your work so much that they're willing to throw economic reason out the window. It's nice to have fans that love your work that much. And these are the fans that you kick in the teeth when you put your game on sale."
Rohrer said income for his games has increased due to Steam sales in the past, but he has stopped participating in post-launch sales events. "This waiting [for sales] is likely decimating your player base and critical mass at launch by spreading new players out over time," he said. "And your fans, who are silly enough to buy the game at launch and waste money, get to participate in a weaker, smaller player community.
"I get why a culture of sales has blossomed, and I also get that it's impossible to escape from it now. To Valve's credit, they never force developers to put their games on sale. Of course, when most developers are putting their games on sale, it becomes harder for the remaining developers to make sufficient revenue without joining the sales, which means even more developers will put their game on sale, which means that players will know that pretty much every game will be available at a deep discount sooner or later, which means that more players avoid buying games at full price, and so on."