NBA 2K23 isn't a high point for the basketball series by many accounts—it hasn't helped its Steam user review average that we got the last-gen version—but I was still a little taken aback to see it on sale for $9.59 as part of Steam Sports Fest. That's an 84% price cut well under a year after release.
It turns out that this is normal for 2K's NBA series. Price history data from SteamDB shows that NBA 2K22 and NBA 2K21 were also discounted by 84% on Steam just eight months after they came out. The games always release in September, which puts their big discounts in May, and it doesn't take Alan Turing to crack this code: 2K cuts the price of its latest NBA game during the NBA playoffs. (It took a little longer for NBA 2K20 to get its 84% discount, which probably has something to do with the season being suspended that year.)
2K doesn't do this with its other sports series. WWE 2K23 just came out in March, so I wouldn't expect a huge discount (it's 25% off), but the year-old WWE 2K22 has never been discounted by more than 75%, and it took 10 months before that happened. The seven-month-old PGA Tour 2K23 is a respectable 67% off during this Steam sale, but that ain't 84%.
For years, we've observed that PC gamers can save a lot of money by waiting a relatively short amount of time before buying new games. In 2017, we reported that big-budget games were, on average, discounted by 50% within seven months of release. Annual sports games are particularly great targets for savings since their publishers want to sell as many copies as they can before pushing the new version each year. That doesn't explain why 2K's basketball series gets the deepest mid-year cut out of them, but now we both know a fun fact—or a useful fact, if you buy these games and would rather spend $10 than $60. (Maybe just pretend they release in May?)
EA's Madden 23 is not too far behind NBA 2K23 with a 70% discount during Steam Sports Fest, putting it at $18 after nine months. FIFA 23 is also 70% off. Perhaps this is a different EA than the one that once criticized Valve's fire sales?
The Xbox One, PS4, and PS5 versions of NBA 2K23 aren't on sale right now, but the Xbox Series X/S version is 80% off, bringing it to $14. If the math seems off to you there, one, congrats on the lightning quick math instincts—maybe you should join Mensa or something—and two, that's probably because the base price for the current gen console versions is $70 instead of $60. If 2K ever starts putting the current gen versions of the NBA 2K series on PC, we can probably expect the same price jump.