This year’s Steam Summer Sale doesn’t feel exciting

I used to look forward to the Steam Summer Sale every year. Just like the Christmas sale, it was usually a good time to pick up titles that had been released 6-12 months ago at a much better price. 

It was also a good time to check out any “Game of the Year” editions for slightly older titles that had all the DLC included.

Over the last few days, I’ve been spending small sessions of around 15-30 minutes browsing Steam for potential games to buy, and for the first time in years, I simply can’t find anything to purchase.

That’s not to say there aren’t great deals available. A lot of good titles, like Borderlands 3, are more than half off. Some titles, like Soul Calibur VI, are even 85% off.

The problem I’m having, though, is that there’s nothing on the store that excites me. There was a dearth of great AAA titles released for the PC last year and this year. Cyberpunk 2077 is being offered with a 33% discount, but I already got that launch and hated it so much for its wasted potential that I never bothered finishing the game.

Outriders, the co-op shooter from People Can Fly and Square Enix, is at a similar 35% discount, but the reviews for it continue to be mixed, so it’s hard to justify the $53 (and that’s the DISCOUNTED price) to pick it up.

Flops like Cyberpunk 2077 and Outriders have further continued to chip away at my faith in big publishers and the games that they release. The pandemic has also made me more conscious of frivolous spending, so I’m less prone to being ok with dropping $50 or more on a game that I may only play for a couple of hours.

Compounding the problem for me is the fact that I’m an Xbox Game Pass subscriber, so I get a lot of titles from smaller studios for free already. For example, Iron Harvest, an RTS title released in early 2020, looks like a steal at $14.75 on Steam. Well, that just came out for free on Game Pass recently.

Another game I would have probably bought on sale is Solasta: Crown of the Magister. This is a much newer title that retails at $34, and is available for 20% off. This title is again available on Game Pass, so I’ve got no reason to spend the additional money on Steam.

I don’t think I’m the only one in the same boat, either. It certainly doesn’t help Valve that subscription services like Xbox Game Pass keep adding great titles to the mix, but I still think the core issue is the lack of excellent new PC games to buy.

If a title was really fun, I’d still be happy to spend the money. However, I’m not willing to splurge on anything mediocre anymore – especially when most fun indie games cost somewhere in the area of $15-$25 without discounts. For those prices, I’m ok to get just a few hours of gameplay, if I have fun.

On a parting note, I’d like to be clear that I’m not unhappy with Steam as a service. It’s still my PC gaming distribution platform of choice. What I lament is a lack of games that inspire and excite me, especially during the sale period. That’s not really Valve’s fault, but it may be a good indicator of the overall state of PC gaming over the last couple of years. I used to be happy even with 10% off of great titles, but now that excitement is missing.

I’m hoping that we see a bit of resurgence in good new PC games in Q3 and Q4 of 2021. Even if they’re not discounted, I’d be happy to just have more things to play on my favourite platform.

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