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Steam discounts give boost for developers

Studios tell Gamasutra that price cuts spark greater interest and additional sales even after the discounts expire.


Developers say Steam sales aren't just good for Valve's bottom line. Gamasutra spoke with Valve and several studios that have had their products significantly discounted during Steam promotions, and found that both sales and interest in the games were boosted even after the sales concluded.

The Kid never gave too much thought to the intrinsic value of his intellectual property.
The Kid never gave too much thought to the intrinsic value of his intellectual property.

Runic Studios' Torchlight, which was released in October 2009, hit its second-biggest sales day ever in the recently concluded Steam Summer Sale. "We find that we get several thousand percent increases in units and revenue on the days of the Steam sales, and unit sales are usually about double the normal for a few weeks after the sales are over," said Runic Games CEO Max Schaefer. Bastion's launch day, which Supergiant Games' Amir Rao said the company viewed as very strong, is now "only our fifth best day of sales ever on Steam due to the power of the promotions we've had the opportunity to participate in."

The Binding of Isaac, Edmund McMillen's Zelda-inspired roguelike shooter, was briefly discounted by 75 percent to a $1.24 price point. Its sales increased 60 times over in that period, McMillen said. While the discounts mean the games go for significantly less than they would normally, the sheer explosion of purchases more than makes up for smaller individual gains. "It's not uncommon for our partners to see [a] 10-20 times revenue increase on games they run as a 'Daily Deal,'" said Jason Holtman, Valve's director of business development. He said most games that participate see a positive trend in sales figures even after the discounts expire.

The findings run counter to allegations from EA Origin head David DeMartini, who said the sales damage intellectual property and discourage users from buying the games outside of special promotions. They do, however, jibe with the philosophy espoused by Valve founder Gabe Newell at the 2009 D.I.C.E. summit. Newell said a weekend half-price sale on its first zombie-slaying co-op shooter Left 4 Dead boosted sales by 3,000 percent, better than even its launch week, without significantly impacting figures at retail.

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