If you are new to PC gaming, new to Steam, or simply want to grab some new games to play over the holidays, here’s some tips and tricks to gather the biggest deals you can at the lowest prices possible:
1. Get a Steam account.
This is a no-brainer. You can’t buy a Steam game without the client and ID. (www.steampowered.com) Steam is iTunes for video games on a computer running any operating system. I use it on every machine I own and when I rebuild a machine for my friends and family it’s one of the first things I install after video drivers due to the amount of free games available like Team Fortress 2 and Lord of the Rings Online, among others. Sign up, take a look around, add money (if you want to buy things), but equally important is the next step:
2. Start adding interesting games to your Wish List.
By doing this step you receive notifications when games go on sale. Steam offers multiple sales throughout the year, with one coming this week called the “Winter Sale”, along with a weekly sale, a weekend sale, and a game discounted every day. In other words, paying full-price for a game (unless it’s something you want the day it comes out or supporting a friend’s development studio or project) doesn’t have to happen ever again.
3. Wait for games to go on sale.
As I mentioned before, games go on sale so often you’ll have a catalog of stuff to play and most likely never have the hard drive space to install everything at once. Right now I have over 300 games in my Steam library, with 25 installed on my main MacBook Pro, and another 30 or so installed on my WIndows gaming desktop at home (such as Skyrim (heavily modded), Dragon Age, Fallout 3, Dead Space 3, Battlefield 3, Unreal Tournament, and Sanctum 2, to name a few off the top of my head).
4. Check out charity bundles for extra savings.
Every week or so, other sites such as humblebundle.com, bundlestars.com, indiegala.com, groupees.com, and indieroyale.com offer packages full of games, many of them with Steam keys letting you put the games directly into Steam (or a similar service like Steam called Desura, but geared towards indie developers) where you pay $5 or whatever you wish to donate for charity (you chose the amount) and they email you the game keys directly. For example, HumbleBundle.com has two sales now, a weekly sale and a “jumbo” sale, both are bundles, and buying both (at $5-$6 each) gives you 16 games for Steam. Doing the math, that’s less than .68 cents each when some of the games (such as Sanctum with all the DLC and Sanctum 2) still retail for $14.99 each.
5. Steam offers built-in features.
The best part, in my opinion, that Steam offers gamers, is the built-in functionality while you play. Voice chat, instant game guides, reviews, trading cards (you get free cards while you play and can sell and buy additional ones on the marketplace), automatic updates for all the installed games, workshop mods, how-to videos, previews, betas, demos, walk-through, news from developers, forums to complain about bugs . . . it’s a gamer’s heaven. Everything one ever wanted in one program, one little screen, all perfectly aligned with the stars. Ready to experience multiplayer and single player awesomeness.
And finally, with Christmas just a few weeks away, everyone knows a gamer in the family. Perhaps at work, what better way than to offer a Steam gift card? “Go buy whatever you want.”
If that doesn’t make a gamer squee with glee, they haven’t seen the glory of Steam yet.
Just wait until the Steam Box console hits the market. Then the fury of “Consoles vs PC” wars begins.