Steam Summer Sale meta-game has been turned into a conspiracy theory

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People the world over have turned Valve’s latest Steam sale meta-game into a massive conspiracy theory, going so far as to create Reddits and Subreddits to discuss it and even co-ordinate actions to get to the bottom of it and/or take advantage of Valve’s perceived “manipulation” for personal gain.

Kotaku’s TMI section has put together a long, detailed post about it, and from where I’m sitting, it’s pretty hilarious how seriously gamers are taking the whole thing.

But first let us back up a bit: Steam’s bi-annual sales have come with meta games for the past couple of years now, where gamers have been subtly encouraged to spend more money than they would have otherwise through a badge-crafting/reward system. Badges are awarded by unlocking the cards that can be earned or bought through Steam, and once you’ve unlocked enough you can craft badges that are then associated with your profile forevermore.

Clever or a con?

It’s a very clever system. Even I, a cynical journalist, have participated in it despite my mind telling me that it’s all a big psychological ploy to part me and my money.

This time around it’s a little different. For the duration of this Steam Summer Sale gamers are placed in one of five coloured teams, and the more badges each team crafts every day, the more games they buy and other community actions they perform, the more points their team scores. At the end of every day of the sale, one team is announced as the day’s winner, presumably based on their collective performance, and 30 members from that team win the top three games in their wish list.

Well, that’s how it started out, anyway. Ever since the sale kicked off, gamers have been vocal on the Steam forums and elsewhere on the internet that the game is, in fact, rigged. This is based on the graph charting each team’s progress, which has often shown one team to be performing far and away better than the other four. Not only that, but for the first five days of the sale each team has won the day once, a rather egalitarian result that observation of general human behaviour makes a little hard to swallow.


After much moaning and complaining by gamers, Valve changed the rules last night to allow two teams to place second and third, with 20 gamers from team two and ten gamers from team three getting their top three gaming wishes granted, presumably to quell the cries of “It’s rigged!”. That hasn’t done anything, of course, but add fuel to the fire of speculation that Valve is up to something untoward in order to make more money off the sale by tricking gamers into spending more, according to the Kotaku article.

This is a rather lightweight overview of the whole thing, but you get the picture. Valve tries to do something a little different with its sale, and the internet goes crazy with cries of foul play.

For a deep-dive into this latest explosion of internet outrage, the Kotaku article makes for some pretty fascinating reading.

[Source – Kotaku]

Deon du Plessis

Deon du Plessis

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.