The Steam Winter Sale was a big success, even without flash sales

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The Steam Winter Sale wrapped up last week, and it was apparently a good one for all involved. Steam Spy estimates that the sale brought in “at least” $270 million in revenue, which is nearly double the amount rung up during the most recent Steam Summer Sale. Note that those figures are estimates based on incomplete data and, as site founder Sergey Galyonkin acknowledged on Medium, therefore “not 100 percent accurate.” But in a recap message posted in the private Steamworks group that somehow ended up on the SteamVR page, and from there to SteamDB (and has been verified by a developer who saw the original), Valve itself said that Winter Sale revenues were up significantly.

The Winter Sale, like the Autumn Sale before it, did not feature daily deals or flash sales, something that was done as “a better way to serve customers that may only be able to visit Steam once or twice during the 13-day event,” Valve explained. “We also saw this change as an opportunity to showcase a deeper variety of titles to customers each day, while having confidence that any game being highlighted would be at its lowest discount.”

Despite some doomsaying about the sale being comparatively dull, the results were clearly very positive. Shifting the focus away from rapidly-changing sales and encouraging users to browse their discovery queue by offering them free Steam Trading Cards for doing so led to more attention for games that wouldn't otherwise have got it. There were three times as many product page views in this Winter Sale than in previous events, and while there was some worry that customers might just click through their queues quickly in order to get the card, the offer actually resulted in a “huge uptick in sales and wishlist additions.”

“As with past years, popular hits continue to sell well during major sales events. But what about the thousands of other titles on Steam?” Valve wrote. “We looked at performance of the group of games outside of the Top 500 in revenue terms. This group collected 35 percent of product page traffic during the sale, which is over 4x their share of traffic from the previous winter sale. And these weren’t just idle views—we also saw 45 percent growth in the revenue generated by this group of games as compared with the last winter sale.”

In other words, despite the occasional transitory feeling of fatigue, Steam sales are changing but they aren't going anywhere.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.