Over the past week, indie developers around the world have started talking about a certain unintended side effect of the latest Steam Sale: wishlist deletions. Some of them believe that this affects them deeply, going as far as saying that thousands of dollars have been lost, and of course, blaming Valve for this. But is it really that bad? And does Valve really deserve all the blame? Let’s take a look at the events of the past week in more detail.
For the uninitiated, Steam lets users add games to a wishlist so they can get notified once they come out (if they are unreleased titles), leave Early Access, or go on sale. Independent developers figured out that this can be a very effective marketing tool over the past few years, and that’s why you often see “Wishlist on Steam!” at the end of so many trailers. Sadly, this also means that many developers only think of the wishlist as a marketing tool, forgetting that people might decide that they actually didn’t want certain games and remove them from their list without an external influence telling them to do it.
Why are we talking about wishlists, again? The gist of the “Steam Sale Wishlist Apocalypse” is that participants who are active during the sale event have a chance to win either the top ranked (purchasable) game on their wishlist, or the top three (again, only purchasable games count) ranked titles on the same list, and since the original wording for the event was a lot more confused than what I’ve described above, some people seemingly thought that they should only have the three items they wanted the most in their wishlist in order to have a shot at winning them.
As you can see, that part of the “apocalypse” is a real concern, albeit one that has been handled by Valve in a very quick and effective manner (they have published a blog post explaining what went down, added new banners to people’s wishlists, and changed the wording of the event so people can’t get confused about how it works). However, I think that the impact of this issue has been over-exaggerated, since people will also often delete games from their wishlist during sale events, as they decide whether they still want the same games they wanted in the past (and haven’t purchased yet) or not. After all, the primary use of a wishlist is to organize the stuff users want. It’s true that developers use them as powerful marketing/stat tracking tools, but that wasn’t the original intent behind the implementation of wishlists, and I believe we should remember that before starting apocalyptic rumors.