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, making them fairly easy to predict. Even amidst Covid-19 delays in 2020, Valve's sales were full steam ahead. The same has been true so far in 2021.
The seasonal sales offer the broadest and deepest price cuts, and they tend to occur during Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. As it does every year, Steam's big summer sale has kicked off with thousands of games on sale, more items to buy in the Points Shop, and a meta adventure with stickers to earn.
When is the next Steam sale?
The yearly Steam Summer Sale has now ended, meaning the Halloween sale at the end of October is the next Steam Sale we're looking forward to.
When is the next Steam Festival?
The summer Steam Next Fest has ended. We don't know dates for whichever demo festival will come next, but we'll let you know when we do.
Steam Festivals (now called Next Fest) aren't sales, exactly, but they're another way to play games for cheap. Since 2020, Steam has been running regular festival weeks where hundreds of upcoming games offer free demos for you to play. It can be a daunting list to sort through, like sales are, but it's a great way to try something you've had your eye on.
When do Steam sales usually happen?
Steam sales (usually) 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 2021.
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 2021: February 11th - February 15th, 2021
Steam Golden Week Sale 2021: April 29th - May 6th, 2021
Steam Spring Sale 2021: May 27th - 31st, 2021
Steam Summer Sale 2021: June 24th - July 8th, 2021
Steam Halloween Sale 2021: Likely the end of October 2021
Steam Black Friday/Autumn Sale 2021: Likely November 24th, 2021
Steam Winter Sale 2021: December 2021
How long do Steam sales last?
The Summer and Winter sales are the big ones. They tend to last two weeks (ish). Other sales like the Lunar New Year sale and Black Friday sale 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.