Steam Sale start dates are a guarded secret at Valve, but they always seem to slip out before the sales actually happen. Information is shared with developers and partners, but if customers knew exactly when a sale was going to drop, many would simply wait for the discounts.
Fortunately Steam sales happen fairly consistently across the year, and there seem to be more of them all the time, including snap sales and publisher bundles. Even during this turbulent year of COVID-19, sale season seems to be full Steam ahead. The seasonal sales offer the broadest, deepest price cuts of the lot, and they tend to occur during Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Read on for more information on when Steam sales tend to occur, and how long you can expect them to last.
When is the next Steam sale?
The Steam Summer Sale 2020 is currently on. It runs from June 25th until July 9th at 10am PDT.
When do Steam sales usually happen?
Steam sales occur at regular times of the year. By looking back at Steam sale dates from the last few years we can guess approximate dates for 2020.
Steam sales tend to start at at 6pm BST/1pm EDT/10am PDT on the third or fourth Thursday of their respective month, with the exception of Autumn/Black Friday sales, which have landed on Wednesdays in the last few years.
Steam Lunar New Year Sale: January 23 to January 27
Steam Spring Sale 2020: In past years, this sale has happened at the end of May, but there wasn't a spring sale in 2019 or 2020.
Steam Summer Sale 2020: June 25 - July 9
Steam Halloween Sale 2020: The Halloween sale normally begins a few days before October 31.
Steam Black Friday/Autumn Sale 2020: The Black Friday sale typically starts at the end of November.
Steam Winter Sale 2020: Steam's winter sale will likely begin mid-December.
How long do Steam sales last?
The Summer and Winter sales are the big ones. They tend to last two weeks (ish). The Spring and Black Friday Autumn sales last about one week.
Which is the best Steam Sale?
We tend to see the biggest discounts in the Summer and Winter sales, and the Summer sales tend to be the best. Autumn and Winter sales tend to be a bit too close to the Fall release season to allow for significant discounts on new releases. By the following summer you can get great discounts on relatively new games. (Here's how long it usually takes for games to get cheap on Steam.)
In the past, when we've rounded up the best Steam deals ever, we've seen some remarkable discounts. Valve's Portal 2 went from $50 to $5 in the Summer Sale a year after release.
Steam sale tips
Use your wishlist
Whenever you see a game you might want, add it to your wishlist. You will receive notifications when wishlisted games are on sale and having a list makes it easier to resist buying unlisted games for the sake of it on impulse. If a game is not on your list, do you really want it?
Looking for a way to quickly fill up your wishlist? Check out our round up of the top 100 games you can play on PC today. Here are 100 other smaller games judged by algorithm to be the best hidden gems on Steam. And these are the best PC games we recommend right now.
Keep an eye on publisher bundles
Publisher bundles can knock lots of money off entire series or catalogues. If you want to buy an individual Hitman game then you might want to check for a series bundle—chances are you could get all of the games for not much more.
Snap up expansions and DLC
Expansions can often feel a little overpriced, especially if they're only adding a few hours of new stuff to your game. In Steam sales you can pick up a lot of DLC for just a few bucks and reinvigorate games in your back catalogue.
Stock up on indie treats
You can get big percentage discounts on big budget games in the major Steam Sales, but even with a hefty trim those games can still cost 20 or 30 bucks. If you want to maximise the amount of play time you get out of a Steam sale, quality indie games go down to dollars, and even cents. If you need more storage to hold them all, these are the best SSDs for gaming right now.
You can always wait for another sale
If you're not going to play a game before the next big Steam sale rolls around, you might as well wait. Chances are the discounts will increase as the annual sales roll by, all while you're clearing your backlog.
It's also much easier to wait on a purchase these days because there are no daily or flash deals. If you see a discount, you know that's going to be stable until the end of the sale so you can wait a few days to make a decision. Maybe that'll give you time to upgrade to one of the best gaming PCs, or pick out a new graphics card if you need to upgrade.
Check on weekends for publisher or themed sales
It's not uncommon for a publisher to showcase all of its products on sale during a weekend, an event which is usually marked by a homepage takeover of sorts. Look out for these if you're after a blockbuster game at a better price.
Consider Steam resellers if you don't want to wait for a sale
Check out our guide on where to buy PC games, if you want more places to shop around.