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Talking Point: Should Sony Mirror Steam's Discount Strategy for PSN?

Posted by Sammy Barker

Door busters

Sales can actually be a pretty cunning strategy. Supermarkets are particularly good at them, lowering the cost of sought after goods in order to obtain publicity and drive foot traffic through their stores. It only takes one heavily discounted item to coerce thrifty shoppers into a cash splashing frenzy, and that allows retailers to make back the savings elsewhere. With this loss leading strategy so common in the real-world, though, why are platform holders such as Sony so cautious to copy the tactic on their digital storefronts?

For the past couple of weeks, the Japanese giant has been running a bi-daily sale in Europe counting down to Christmas. There have been some so-so savings thus far – Saints Row IV, Spelunky, and Rayman Legends spring to mind – but despite the offers rotating every 48 hours, none of them have really convinced us to punch the air. In fact, so tepid have the deals been that we’d hazard that the average PlayStation 3 or Vita owner hasn’t even been paying attention to the money-saving advent calendar at all. But it really shouldn’t be that way in the online space.

Valve’s digital platform Steam is in a slightly different position to the PlayStation Network. The popular PC application doesn’t have to deal with real-world retailers, so is able to price its goods more competitively. This has resulted in some outrageous sales over the years, with entire brand back catalogues moving for pennies assuming that you take advantage of a limited time window. It’s these kinds of offers that have driven the popularity of the service, and made it the standard storefront for computer users. And it’s something that Sony should be paying close attention to.

As already alluded, as long as physical stores remain imperative to the popularity of the PlayStation brand, the platform holder’s not going to get away with undercutting real-world retailers regularly – but there are other options at its disposal. For starters, the PS3 is now an ageing system, and that means that it has an enormous back catalogue. Former favourites such as Heavy Rain and Resistance 3 have now almost surely sold through their final Blu-ray run, so why not sell the digital versions off for £0.79/$0.99 in a 24 hour event?

The advantages of holding fire sales would be almost universally positive for both consumers and the platform holder. With door busting price points, more casual consumers would have a reason to visit the PlayStation Store, and that would give Sony an invaluable opportunity to market newer releases. Furthermore, the games may be available for cheap, but in many ways this would represent pure profit, as those that take advantage of the deals may never have purchased the titles at full price. Moreover, such a strategy could prove a valuable means of encouraging players to test drive new franchises – and this may have long-term advantages when a sequel rolls around.

We’ve already seen it employ this strategy with PlayStation Plus. The company regularly rotates blockbuster titles that are about to obtain a sequel into the Instant Game Collection, and this doubles as a promotional opportunity for the publishers involved. The electronics manufacturer may argue that its subscription service also offers some noteworthy savings on top of its usual roster of discounts – but it’s still not enough. When was the last time that you saw a PSN saving that you had to tell your friends about? We follow the brand daily, and we’re drawing blanks. That’s not really good enough.

Considering the amount of goodwill that the firm’s garnered from its abovementioned membership plan, it’s hard to believe that its PSN sales continue to be so lacklustre in comparison to the competition. There’s an enormous library of dormant digital content just waiting to be reduced, but Sony’s disregard for decent discounts is preventing it from finding a new audience. Still, if there’s one advantage to non-physical retail, it’s that new strategies can be implemented very quickly. Let’s hope that it comes to its senses soon, and starts offering some real deals for the masses of software in its online inventory.


Do you agree that Sony could learn a thing or two from Steam’s incredible sales? Would you be more tempted to try new things if the price was right? How good do you think that the current PlayStation Store deals are? Count your coins in the comments section below.

Do you think Sony should introduce Steam-style fire sales on the PlayStation Store? (57 votes)

Yes, I’d happily try out older games that passed me by if they were cheap

91%

Hmm, I’m not really sure

  0%

No, the current discounts combined with PlayStation Plus are good enough

9%

Please login to vote in this poll.

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User Comments (24)

Tasuki

#1

Tasuki said:

As someone who has a gaming budget I am always looking for games on sale, especially ones that I missed when they first came out or had too many games and not enough money come out all around the same time. I would enjoy seeing sales on the PSN. While I do prefer physical copies as opposed to digital if the price is right......

get2sammybAdmin

#2

get2sammyb said:

@Tasuki That's exactly it. It's impossible to keep on top of everything that releases. There are so many games that come out that just slip through the net, and a lot of them just sit on the PSN servers doing nothing. Refresh them, put them on sale, get people talking about them again. I really don't understand why this doesn't happen.

Epic

#3

Epic said:

Steam is the main plataform of distribution of PCs, its the only way to get games because the retail market there's nonexistent and everything is controlled by DRM policies(They are a bit open but still it counts as DRM).
Developers tend to never reduce prices for their main focus on the retail market and the fact it has a huge flaw with the resell retailers, when gamestop sell an used copy of MAG the earning goes for them, not for the deveoper/publisher. This is why developers always keep pushing the inclusion of DAY ONE DLC and Pre Order bonuses to avoid their target to resource to second hand copies and pay full price for them. That's why we can't find all these huge amazing sales around, even thought they try sometimes its already when the game is extremely old or it has recieved a lot of hate from critics.
Everything I stated is just my guess and used my limited knowledge of Steam, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

rjejr

#4

rjejr said:

They should try it on some older games that new PS3 owners may not have played, or even heard of. Lair was good when they added in controller support, Heavenly Sword is still good, and don't forget the giant crabs in Genji 2 ;-) I dont know about giving away games like Rayman since it just came out. but 5 or 6 year old games, yes.

BornOfEvil

#5

BornOfEvil said:

If it means shutting up the PC community, I don't care what Sony does. I'd still stick to retail, but it'd be nice if digital fans could get discounts on games.

Reverend_Skeeve

#6

Reverend_Skeeve said:

I'd love to see some good deals on PSN...sometimes you can find insane savings and I got Borderlands 2 from Xbox Live a few weeks after launch for about 20,- €, so if the price is right, I have no problem to buy a digital game...so: bring it on! :)

PMasterTy9

#7

PMasterTy9 said:

I would definitely be more inclined to buy off the PSN if there were Steam like sales.

Farmboy74

#8

Farmboy74 said:

Steam style fire sales are a good idea, also why not low the prices for games that have been on sale for 3 months+?

belmont

#9

belmont said:

I don't know what's the deal with Steam since I have a pretty old laptop and a netbook however sales are always welcome. I enjoy the occasional "free" PS Plus games but they somehow offer games for the Vita that I already have.

What I would like some more is the Day one discounts for Plus like the 20% they did this week with Broken Sword 5. Also a 20% sale on a one year old game is sort of lame, it should be 60% or more. The 12 deals of Christmas were sort of good but the more the better!!

Splat

#11

Splat said:

I'm a huge digital fan so YES!

That said my 500 GB PS3 is down to around 90 GB's... Maybe I should slow down on getting digital games. I blame PS+. :)

Beaston61

#12

Beaston61 said:

I am ashamed of my Steam account.... I own too many.
366 to be precise, all thanks to Steam Sales over the years.

CanisWolfred

#13

CanisWolfred said:

No. That would be absolutely reckless of them. That's like saying we people should follow the App store model - it would ruinous to the entire industry in the longrun. The last thing this industry needs is everyone having such large backlogs that eventually no one feels the need to buy new games, or buy any game at full price at least, thus driving down prices to an absurd amount until no one makes money anymore.

TehPlayerHecz

#14

TehPlayerHecz said:

Sony should definitely do what Steam does and since the New Year is getting closer, I think they should do a fire sale of all or some PS3 and PS Vita games, new and old.

moomoo

#16

moomoo said:

I'm with @CanisWolfred on this one. This is a bad idea.

The AAA game market is currently an oligopoly, with Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony basically being the only major participants, with some more minor players in the grand scheme of things that aren't really able to influence the market much (think PC storefronts, like Steam, Origin, etc.) Let's say that one of the major players starts doing PC-like sales. Yeah, there will be immense profit at first. Most people will either leave the console they own for a Sony one if these sales are prolonged (unlikely) or the other competitors will follow suit in order to still make some more money (more likely). Thing is, this basically makes the AAA game market akin to a perfectly competitive industry. This can be both good and bad. It can be good in that the market is more efficient; the deadweight loss associated with monopolies/oligopolies would basically disappear. However, this is bad in that the market also wouldn't be profitable at a base level. Yeah, consumer surplus will be very high, but producer surplus? Stuck at zero. Here's a graph to give you an idea.

A monopoly:
Untitled

Meanwhile, a perfectly competitive industry looks the same, except all of the colored space is consumer surplus. Consumer surplus is when someone is buying something at a lower price than their maximum willingness to pay. So yes, consumers benefit, but at the price of the industry they are buying from losing profitability. This model works for systems that have tons of buyers and sellers that can't influence the market at all (the App Store is a perfect example). In theory, and presumably practice as well, the amount of hits and misses on the App store pretty much even out to make for a market that makes zero profit for those selling the products (not Apple, since they facilitate the market, a whole other story). Angry Birds does so well that it makes up for the insane amount of misses in the market as a whole.

Thing is, you don't want this model for something as high profile as the AAA gaming industry, since it's too risky a venue. We wouldn't have systems as high profile as the ones we have now if it weren't for the immense profit that could come way from the oligopoly system that's in place right now. It'd be too risky to justify the immense fixed costs.

So there's the mini economics lesson. ;)

Grockumus

#17

Grockumus said:

@moomoo UGH! More economics! I've been studying it all semester! I go on this site SPECIFICALLY to take a break from online classes. It keeps following me, haha :P

divinelite

#18

divinelite said:

Sales make people reluctant to buy games at launch, me included.
But yeah... I can buy most of my digitals that way

charlesnarles

#19

charlesnarles said:

@moomoo too long; still read it; yeah it's called capitalism. I still think the oligopolies you mention could sell their old-ass games for cheaper and have that keep new games' prices higher. Devs don't get used profits so it would only encourage them to make better games and have folks need to day-one them

Zombie_Barioth

#20

Zombie_Barioth said:

I'd say they could definitely stand to have more sales, maybe not quite to the extreme Steam does, but certainly more often and varied. Offer a mix of not-so-old games and forgotten gems and try to hit as many price points as possible, not just impulse prices. They don't need to match Steam, they just need to make sure people feel like they're getting great deals.

Deadstanley

#21

Deadstanley said:

The good and the bad with Steam style sales...

GOOD: So many games to play
BAD: So many games to play

I have about 150 Steam games, ~25 of which I saw through to the end, and the rest I never even tried... but because of the crazy pricing, I impulse bought like no one's business. To be honest a friend of mine gifted the THQ "going out of business" pack which constitutes probably 40 games right there, but the rest cost me really 3-6 bucks per... and over a few years so the damage was mitigated nicely.

Anyway... I've been doing the same thing with PSN sales, but I am more inclined to play console games due to the convenience. Back in the summer North America had a sale on Japanese Vita titles. For ~15 bucks I ended up getting Ragnarok Odyssey, Silent Hill, and Katamari. All titles I would not have purchased myself for retail prices. Then these past few weeks with the holiday sales? Holy crap... just this week I picked up the discounted God of War: Ascension, the Pixel Junk titles, Hitman: Blood Money, Guacamelee, Superfrog and a few other titles I don't recall. It was something crazy like 8 titles for 30 bucks and God of War was the most expensive coming in at 10 dollars.

Anyway, my point is that I would never have purchased these games, at least not at full price. Having the option to splurge like this is beneficial to a gamer like myself because at the end of the day the price tag isn't really the factor which holds me back, it's whether I want to gamble on an unknown series, developer, or even genre. I think these pricing discounts are great for generating interest in new or expected future titles. Not only that, but I would feel more inclined to buy DLC for a title I paid a discounted price for versus a title I paid in full for. You try it, and if the game appeals to you, you will more than likely support the sequels or similar titles. Besides, I HAVE to believe that the titles they discount were generating little to no revenue for a string of months, which prompted the desire to regenerate interest. I think everyone wins with these sales, if not why would they even do them?

LDXD

#22

LDXD said:

Steam sales are always nice but I rarely use steam anymore GOG is so much better and no DRM yay :)

WaLzgiStaff

#24

WaLzgi said:

And sell games for next to nothing? How the heck does one profit from that model?

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