The infamous Steam Sale has come again, and amidst the veritable deluge of prices crashing to earth there are some serious bargains. I can honestly say I’ve bought more in this sale than I have done in years, a few of those curiosity pieces reduced to pennies, blockbuster titles of yesteryear brought to all time lows. Financially speaking the going has been good this summer if you’ve got a nice full wishlist so you can monitor the good deals when they come.
Steam’s efforts to gamify their sales process and engage their users in the buying process may- at one time – have revolutionised the retail industry, but their recent efforts have been a little lacklustre, repetitive, and at times a little sloppily executed. So let’s talk about the latest attempt, the sticker collection.
Every 24 hours you get the usual chance to cycle through your discovery queue ignoring the popular games, watching the odd trailer that catches your eye, maybe racking up an item or two for the wishlist, and collecting trading cards for the regular badge that you’ll never quite complete. The queue also earns you stickers, as do two other “quests” that change every day that get you further and further involved in Steam’s various community features. You slowly build up a sticker collection that build up various scenes of game characters enjoying typical summer activities, barbecues in the park, going to the seaside, time out in the wilderness with friends, that sort of thing.
And yet I find myself thinking that this may be one of the least interesting and blandly transparent, and maybe that’s because I’ve seen too many. Sure there’s plenty of new users who’ve never taken part, maybe aren’t aware of all of the community features they’ve got going on, and they’ve added a few lately that they probably want to shout about a little, and rightly so, they’ve put in the backbone to take their once barely known selling platform for their singular line of games and created a monster of the industry that’s stripped PC games from the highstreet and have forced the consoles to give deep thought to their business model… but that’s a different article, I’ll stop now.
Turning your engagement in a product and into the sale into a game is the perfect approach for Steam, but it requires some feedback, some reward, and filling up a sticker book with some mostly boring stickers? Ok, seeing Geralt of Rivia flipping burgers is entertaining enough but most of those stickers are cups. One of the pages has mostly cacti, and to be honest a few of them just don’t fit the background.
And I find myself asking unpleasant questions like: “What exactly do Steam levels do for me?” and “Why am I so entertained by collecting the cards?” I’m not in this to chase numbers, I find I want more out of my experience, and practically any amount of return on investment would make me far more interested.
I’m well aware that the Steam sales are a deal that benefits everyone, we get cheap games, Steam makes money, and the creators make money (although… no, y’know what, that’s another article again), so I’m not saying that the sales are a bad idea, far from it. But they have a motif to pursue, and right now it feels like they’re just rolling out the same recycled picture show and haven’t even reached the bar on that either.