Digital Hoarding


Do you torrent/rip/back up every movie you have ever enjoyed? Do you visit regularly, looking for games that you loved back in the day, even though they border on unplayable and nostalgia is their key feature? Do you have a terabyte hard drive full of  files you haven’t quite managed to sift through?

I certainly feel your pain – from time to time the primitive part nerd-brain compels me to track down a season of this show or a story arc of that comic book. Surely the cloud will save us all from these impulses.

Too bad someone has already turned this urge into a business model.

Every couple months they find an excuse to make you buy. Summer. Halloween. Christmas. Just because. Steam is there for you. Sure – it’s easy enough to resist their 10% and 20% off sales. Its when they start offering you a game for half and three quarters off. Oh, you might never get around to playing the X-com prequel, but if you do – you’ll have saved 30 theoretical dollars, and everyone knows those are the most valuable kind.

Right now I have 18 deeply discounted games that I really do have every intention of getting around to play, and another half dozen that I have started, but not gotten anywhere close to finishing. That’s at least $200 over the last year that I have, shall we say, misallocated. Sure, when I get around to playing my $15 copy of Bioshock infinite (thank you summer sale) I will enjoy it on a dollar adjusted basis far more than my $50 copy of Dead Island (how could a game with a trailer so good turn out so bad) but that’s not the point.

All of this really leaves me with more questions than answers. How does Valve manage to make any money giving games away? If 25% of the cover price is break-even for a publisher, does that mean that video games have a 400% margin? How is it Steam is able to seduce me so regularly?

Steam and Kickstarter represent the last vestiges of my impulse buying, so the problem isn’t all bad. Once upon a time I might have spent those dollars at Barnes and Noble (rest in peace,) or my FLGS. Today I can spend money on things I don’t really need from the comfort of my own home. Heaven help me if a comic book company ever uses the Steam flash-sale model.

So what do the rest of you say? Am I alone in my need to buy games I may never have the time to play? What outlets succeed in stealing your impulse dollars?

This entry was posted by David Winchester.

3 thoughts on “Digital Hoarding

  1. For me, it’s mostly music and books that kick my hoarding genes into life. It used to be physical CDs and books, which meant I had 8 bookcases full of stuff. Since discovering the joys of indiscriminate, largely unethical downloading, my actual purchases are fewer, but they’re things that I know I’ll actually like (probably because I’ve read them before.) I’ve also grabbed eBook versions of books I been lugging around like Stephen King’s books, or Robert Parker’s Spenser novels. They got my money (at least) once for those, so I don’t feel bad about not buying the Kindle versions. And I’ve been buying quite a few ebooks and MP3s as well, usually from lesser-known authors and artists.

    Oddly enough, I will download TV shows all the time (since we replaced cable with Netflix and downloading), but I buy most of the movies I watch, and catch the rest on Netflix. I’ve slowly been building up my Blu-Ray collection of my favorite movies.

    Basically, when I die, however far away that is, I know I’ll die with books unread and probably music never heard.

  2. Amazon is eyeing you right now for it’s future.

    As someone who’s saved so, so much money on shoe, er, steam sales I feel your pain. I’ve read on forums before of people not bothering with such-and-such games because of their backlog.

    I don’t know if the model is sustainable though for that reason. Once you’ve gotten a person, you can only “win big” from them once. Now you’ve got a customer who’ll only pick up 90% of games at a 66+% discount and keep in mind – most of their checklist has been acquired.

    My first steam Christmas was amazing but now I generally see games I’ve already purchased discounted. And yes, a lot of those games are unplayed. And that’s the rub. I now know that I can take my time with my backlog and such-and-such game will eventually be discounted again – perhaps by that time I’m free to play it.

    As for Steam itself, it gets a cut (though unclear as to how much, that’s super secret through negotiations) so it behooves them to churn as much as possible. It’s the developers themselves that probably suffer from the huge discounts, if anyone does.

    Though the old line goes, if you want to become a millionaire it’s a lot easier to sell a million things for one dollar then one thing for a million.

  3. “How does Valve manage to make any money giving games away?”

    Quite easy. It costs them next to nothing to let you download a digital copy. And if you actually just buy it with the intend of “I’ll play it sometime later this year”, and never get around to do it, then it is actually just free $$$ for Steam, and the publisher.

    I’ve personally picked up *many* games I otherwise wouldn’t, because I could get them dirt cheap. Many are still unplayed and undownloaded, so I am more or less in your situation. But I came to the conclusion that if I would ever make it, I should stop buying games that are above 5$ (Really!), and then I am only allowed to play 1, sometimes 2, games at a time. Didn’t finish a game? Don’t start a new one. Takes some practice, but now it is working fine, and I am slowly working through my Humble Bundle library of Steam games.

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