I’ll be the first in line to admit I had my doubts, but it turns out Valve’s marketing gurus could be even bigger geniuses at psychoanalysing their customers than I’d given them credit for. For the first time ever over the holidays, the Steam Winter Sale had an altered format. Daily Deals , feature discounts and flash deals were a thing of the past. Instead it was one fixed discount for each and every game in the sale (except Ubisoft, who, like some sort of rogue state, continued to operate outside of these restrictions with daily deals).
The idea being that this new format for delivering the sales meant everyone could get access to the best deal, whether they could only access a PC once for the duration of the 13-day event, or if they were rabidly checking for updates every four hours. Valve is being a little cagey about the financial results, but in terms of driving people around the Steam store-front it’s been an unparalleled success.
Valve’s first nifty idea was doling out free Steam Trading Cards every day. All you had to do was rifle through 12 games in your personalised Discovery Queue, three times every day. That clearly worked, because there was a gigantic increase in product page views - threefold in comparison to the 2014 Winter Sale.
Page views don’t make Valve any money though, so how did this pay off? Well, it turns out encouraging users to sift through dozens of recommendations thrice daily causes an upturn in wishlist additions. The result is double the norm.
“One of our concerns going into the Winter Sale was that extrinsically motivating customers with a trading card might encourage people to just click through their Discovery Queue and not actually pay attention to the games being presented,” writes Valve. “It turned out that customers found a lot of value in using the Discovery Queue, resulting in a huge up-tick in sales and wishlist additions.”
Which is all well and good, but none of this pertains to actual revenue for Valve. The only breadcrumb we have to go on here is that games outside of the top 500 in terms of revenue attracted 35% of the page views. That’s four times the traffic this section of the market got in 2014, and resulted in a 45% growth in revenue.
To that end, a 400% increase in traffic resulted in a 45% growth in sales. It’s no exact science, but apply that same rate to the total Steam product page views (which rose 300%) and you get a global sales increase of roughly 34%. Things are rarely as simple as this, and comparing the best-sellers to the fringe titles may be an apples to oranges comparison, but it's the nearest we can get to a point of comparison.
At the very least the new sales format appears to be a great driver for pushing people through Steam, with a pretty impressive up-tick in the purchase of the more niche titles to be found lurking on the store.
How did you find the alterations to the Steam Winter Sale format? Were you a fan of fixed discounts, or do you like to be kept on your toes with flash sales and daily discounts? For myself I think there was one of the first sales I've ever not spent a penny. There wasn't a great deal that stood out for me, and with no reason to come back each day while I was busy of the holidays, I didn't.