The Steam Summer Sale is upon us, and for those of us with credit cards and compulsive shopping habits, it’s a bad time for our bank accounts. On the other hand, it’s a great time for picking up those games you’ve been waiting to buy. With literally hundreds of games on sale and a rotating selection of discounts though, it’s hard to know when you’re getting the best deal. Luckily, there are a few tricks to getting through this madness with your sanity intact.
When to buy games and when to wait.
The trickiest bit about every Steam Sale is choosing when to buy the games you want. Do you buy them immediately? Wait for a Flash Sale? Hope they come back on the last day?
Well, it’s actually pretty simple. There are multiple levels of discounts, and while there are exceptions to the rules, they’re generally pretty straight forward.
The first category is a base discount that hundreds of titles on Steam will get. This discount varies widely, but is usually at least 25%. These discounts last for the entire duration of the Steam Sale, so it’s in your best interest to wait until the last day to make your purchase (unless you really want to play it now, in which case, have at it).
The second category are the Daily Deals, which get swapped out every 24 hours for a new batch. These discounts can be a bit better, but will often be quite low if the game is fairly recent or a pre-order.
The last category is Flash Sales and Community Choice discounts. These only last 8 hours before a new group of games emerges.
So how do you know if you’re getting the best deal? As an easy rule of thumb, Flash Sales and the Community Choice picks have the deepest discounts. If you see a game you want with a Flash Sale discount, get it, as it is very unlikely that it will come back with a better price (or even the same price).
Daily Deals are a little bit trickier. These discounts are almost always significantly better than the event-long base sale price, but sometimes they come back even cheaper in a Flash Sale. I’d say if you really want it, grab it if it comes up as a Daily Deal. If you’re on the fence, wait to see if a Flash Sale comes up, because if nothing else you might get lucky on the last day.
The last day of a Steam Sale is almost always an Encore Sale. This is when Valve brings back a number of popular Daily Deals and Flash Sales for one final hurrah. Obviously the prices won’t get any better than this, since it’s the last day, so if you missed anything you want, grab it now. A word of warning though: not everything comes back during the Encore (and not every sale has an Encore either), so it’s a bit of a risk to wait until the final day.
There’s one exception to the rule though: bundles. Publisher bundles are always going to have the biggest discount overall. The catch is that you have to want everything in that bundle, and if you already own a game in it, you don’t get an extra giftable copy (the exception being a small handful of Valve games).
How the Summer Adventure works.
Like in previous Steam Sales, players earn limited edition trading cards by making purchases and participating in the event. Collecting the entire set and crafting a badge out of it will also net you an exclusive in-game item for one of several games. Most of these items are garbage, but if you’re the gambling type, there’s always a few that go for pretty decent sums of money.
This Summer Sale also features a competitive twist though. Steam users are randomly grouped into several color-coded teams. Crafting any badge gives your team a point, and the team with the most points at the end of each day get a bonus trading card, and a chance for 30 members of that team to get free games off of their wishlists.
If you’re just here for the games, the Summer Adventure probably doesn’t matter much to you. If you’re like me though and you love them trading cards and in-game items, here are a few more tips on getting the most out of the experience.
Craft badges to earn more trading cards.
How do you earn more trading cards? The easiest way is to spend all your money on the Steam Sale (you’ll earn one card for every $10 you “donate” to Valve). If going broke isn’t ideal for you though, you can earn quite a few cards just by playing the “game” with a little bit of strategy.
You can earn up to two Summer Adventure trading cards every day by contributing at least one point to your team’s daily total. If your team wins, you’ll get two cards, and if you lose, you still get one. Earning more points is good for your team, but won’t give you any additional cards, so it’s probably your best bet to just aim for one point a day.
You can earn this point by crafting any Steam Badge. If you need a quick Trading Card refresher, you can earn approximately half of a set by simply playing a game with Trading Card support (or leaving it open while you do something else if that’s your jam). To collect the other half, the fastest and easiest way is to simply drop a little bit of cash in the Steam Market. You can also trade for them, but that requires time and socializing with other people (gross).
To see which cards you need, head to the Badges tab in Steam, then click on the Badge you’re trying to craft and it will show you which cards you are missing. Copy and paste their names somewhere, then head to the Steam Market to start your search. Steam automatically sorts listings by price, so there’s never a need to shop around.
Most card sets can be completed for under a dollar, and crafting a badge will net you one Summer Adventure Card automatically, and one more the following day for contributing a point to your team’s total. Considering these Summer cards are going for around 30 to 40 cents on the Marketplace right now, you’re likely going to recoup the cost of crafting that initial badge.
To sum it all up, it’s in your best interest to craft one badge per day, which will net you two to three Summer Adventure trading cards. Crafting more than one badge per day will give you more cards, but you’ll still only get one or two bonus ones the next day, so it’s probably better to space them out over the week.
Vote in the community poll.
Every 8 hours, the community gets a chance to vote on what set of games will be featured in the next Community Choice sale. Even if you have no interest in either set of titles, vote anyways! As long as your Steam account is level 5 (you can get to 5 for free with the Pillars of the Community badge) or higher, you’ll get a free Summer Adventure card for every three times you vote.
You can vote through Steam itself, or through the Steam mobile app. It costs nothing, takes almost no time, and you get a card out of it, so there’s really no reason not to.
Use the Market for deals on cards.
This option is a bit time consuming, but if saving money is more important to you than saving time, you can get some good deals on cards through the Steam Market.
You probably already know that Steam sorts individual listings for an item by price, so under-priced cards generally get snatched up quick. However, you may not know that before they’re sorted into the official listing, an item spends a small window of time only visible on the “Newly Listed” tab. If you take note of the going rate for a card and refresh this page, you’ll be able to snatch up deals before people searching for the item normally can see them.
Set up your wishlist.
Assuming you took my advice and are crafting one badge per day, set up your wishlist as soon as possible! Every day, 30 lucky users from the winning team (who contributed at least one point) will get 3 free games off of their wishlist. If you haven’t set yours up though, you aren’t eligible to win.