Steam Syndrome: Be Wary of the Summer Sale

37% of the games bought on Steam are never played. Can I convince you not to indulge in the Steam summer sale?

Let's face it, girls and guys. It doesn't matter what kind of gamer you are. If you have Steam installed, you're more than likely going to indulge in the Steam Summer Sale. And why wouldn't you? The discounts are great! Tons of games go on sale for dirt cheap and some even lower on certain days. 

But I'm here to warn you now. For your own sanity, don't go crazy over the Steam summer sale. 

The Problem

First, let's establish some of the problems with Steam and the Summer Sale before we go and find a cure. 

A large part of the problem is that Steam has too many games. Yeah you heard me. Way too many. Actually, this year alone, we've seen more games come out between January and April than all of 2013. We've got graphs to prove it too! 


According to Gamasutra:

While in 2013 your new release might have shown up on the front page of Steam for a few days, you're likely to see your game drop off the front page within 24 hours of you releasing it.

Hell, if I was an indie developer (and not struggling for money) I'd wait a while before releasing my game. 

Now This Part Is Just Sad

Here's the sad truth about Steam. "Nearly 37% of all games bought on Steam are never played." Back in April, Forbes did the math and found some stunning results.

Of (the 781 million registered games), only 493 million have been played. A whopping 36.9% of the titles on Steam have never seen the light of a computer monitor.

It hurts my heart to read that. Games are supposed to be investments. Pieces of art to be enjoyed and explored. Not set on the shelf like your grandmother's china collection. 

So, a Bunch of Games, and Lots of Them Unplayed... So What?

You know what that means? Wasted money. A lot of it. And not only that, but with such a huge influx of new games coming to Steam, hundreds of games will more than likely be on sale and deals will be sweeter than ever. Beware...

Kotaku also did a nifty little report on how bad the Steam Syndrome is. Who likes infographics? I do!


I'll admit, I'm a victim of the Steam Syndrome too. I have about 15 games I've either never played or only played an hour or two of... So here's my public apology to all the developers who I let down... I'll try to play your games soon™.

What Can We Do To Stop This?

Whelp... to be honest there's not a whole lot we can do. The Summer Sale will start soon, and people will spend more than they expect to buying a handful of games they'll never touch. 

My advice is to do some research before jumping on a sweet deal. Not only find out if the game is good based on reception and reviews, but look up how the game runs on Steam itself. Or if the controller support is better than keyboard and mouse. I know a few of my games don't have hardware cursor and makes the game unbearable to play for me. 

 All I can say is good luck to everyone. I hope your wallet doesn't hurt after the weeks of mayhem and savings Valve throws in your face. 

Featured Contributor

Published Jun. 17th 2014
  • Chai Chien Liang
    Sometimes I can't help it but grab a game off Steam just to keep a digital copy of a game somewhere

    I think I must've spent around 60 USD on GoG during their Summer sale, did get a lot of good DRM-free games out of it (FTL:Advanced edition!)

    I have a bunch of games on Steam that I got when I purchased gaming bundles from Humble Bundle and Bundle Stars, will have to slowly download and play one by one (currently I am downloading Mortal Kombat:Komplete Edition which is a huge 8.5gigs)
  • BossGalaga
    You can get some great deals and purchase as a gift for the trading value alone for some games. If you decide you want to keep it, you can redeem it for yourself later. Obviously, the trade value of some of these games will dip during a sale but if you hold on to them, you can make cash money on Steam trades after the sale is over and people have stopped flooding the trade forums with sale games. That's what I do.
  • steve_1939
    Not sure why you singled out Steam -- as of today, Gamersgate and GOG are both in the middle of huge summer sales and Green Man just wrapped up theirs. I have a 10-15 game backlog with each of the big three, and it makes me happy to have games such as System Shock 2, Torchlight 2, and King's Bounty sitting in my library waiting for the day when I can play them.
  • ConnorHagen123
    Ha! The author of this post has played Lord of the Rings Online, or has at least seen Sapience's (their Community Manager) forum sig!
  • Gizmo_2738
    Resistance is futile. Only a maxxed credit card can prevent fulfillment!!
  • Jerome Phiffer
    My wallet is always ready for Steam sales, and I fully admit I'm guilty of having games I have yet to play. However just because I can't play these games immediately doesn't mean I should pass up a sale only to purchase it at a higher price when I find time. I have had games that I purchased and didn't play them until a year later. I have interest in everything I buy. I don't look at it and go "4 dollars! I'll take it!" It has to be something I already wanted, or looks interesting.

    It would be great to have all the time I wanted to game, but I don't, so I buy my games, and play them when I can. I'm sure that goes for others as well. While I'm sure there are idiots out there that just buy stuff they have no intentions of playing, some of us are just busy. I have a full time salaried position (we all know what that means), a family, and a lot of hobbies. Games are entertainment, and worth my money, but they'll get my time when I decide to give it :)
  • Brandon Morgan
    Featured Contributor
    This article is heresy. Pile of shame is forever growing as long as their are epic Steam sales, like that of tomorrow.

    If there is a chance you might want the game at a later time, why not buy it while the price is low?
  • Mike Schaeffer
    "But if I don't buy it, I will lose money!"

    On a different note, a great way I use to play my gigantic library of unplayed games(400+ not including DLCs) is to use Steam Roulette! Google it, It's pretty amazing and has gotten me into playing a large majority of my games and discovering some real gems. :)
  • Si_W
    I have loads of games on Steam that I've never played. 15? Pah! N00b....

    It doesn't bother me as some came in Humble Bundles, some came as Steam bundles and some just came individually but never thought to fire them up.

    I don't care though. I would like to play them but I have other things to do and even though they were on sale (or not in some cases actually), I take solace that at least the developer is receiving some money that could just tip the balance in developing something new.

    So I'm helping even if I'm not playing.
  • Landon Sommer
    Been there. Done that. I bought plenty of the Total War series last year. I played many of them once and passed. There is a downside to buying older games in a series as well, you've been spoiled by the most recent game and the older ones seem awful just by control comparison.
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist
    This is why I try to focus on games I either really want or feel I should review. I tried one year to just snag titles and then I ended up with games like War For Cybertron that I regret spending even five bucks on.
  • Charner Boney
    Featured Contributor
    The hardware cursor problem happened to me with The Witcher 2 and Dragon Age Origins... It's really depressing.
  • Elijah Beahm
    Featured Columnist, I wasn't talking about a hardware cursor problem?
  • Charner Boney
    Featured Contributor
    i know. I was just giving an example of wasted money haha.

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