The Steam Holiday Sale and accompanying Great Gift Pile giveaway ended on January 2nd after two weeks of deals and coal gathering. The Great Gift Pile gave you six objectives to complete daily, and for each objective successfully completed you could win free games and/or discount coupons for select games, or receive a piece of coal which could be entered into a raffle at the conclusion of the sale. The grand prize for the Epic Holiday Giveaway raffle was every available Steam game (all of them).
First prize would receive the top 10 items on their wishlist, second prize would win their top five, and third prize would receive the Valve Complete Pack. Alternatively, you could take seven coals and craft them into a random coupon or game.
Although the winners haven’t been announced yet or come forward, the Steam forums have been buzzing with complaints, especially since Valve ran out of prizes and coupons from 3rd party publishers, so coal could only be crafted to create Valve coupons and games, to the chagrin of gamers who already owned all Valve games.
Users accused Valve of trolling and conning. One especially worked up customer accused Valve of bribery, writing:
I spent over 2 weeks, wasting my precious time in doing objectives, spent incredible sums of money on buying ‘Great Gift Pile’ games and other relevant games in hope of achieving something spectacular or something worth the sacrifice and all I have been getting in return is worthless bloody Coal + crappy duplicate Coupons. I’m done with this load of nonsense!
Time to get back to my University work, life is more important than wasting my hard-earned money and precious time with such greedy and money-oriented business who give absolutely no priority nor have any concerns whatsoever over their loyal customers.
It’s a little like blaming a slot machine for wasting a gambler’s time and money – it’s not the machine telling the player to stay. There is no “promise” of a reward, only a possibility. Some users recognized this, arguing that Valve should had been clearer about running out of 3rd party games and coupons: “Since this is all gambling, people may have much preferred their odds at winning the grand prize over their odds at winning a valve coupon or a valve game [since that is all that is left to win].”
Others argued that the whole prize system should have been dropped:
The only benefit we players/customers got from the sales were the good quality sales. I would have been happier and respected Valve if they had simply been left at that, instead of trolling us to buy more and more games, even though half of them we won’t even play, all for the sake of ‘winning’ something that wasn’t really there.
While much of the anger was directed at Valve, many more chose to blame system exploiters, stating, “I have seen a few accounts with over 100 prizes, 3rd party games and coupons, seriously, it’s infuriating,” and “Blame the farmers who set up multiple accounts with the sole purpose of farming coal and games.” The system the farmers set up was this: they spent one dollar to get 100 Humble Indie Bundle games and registered 100 steam accounts, so every Steam account could complete 10+ easy objectives. They could then basically have 1,000 coal for the one dollar. While some of the grosser offenders were banned, many more went unscathed.
Of course, many people also thought the Great Gift Pile was fun, and had them playing games they wouldn’t normally have played. One user noted, “They made it fun, gave out free stuff and supported indie developers by putting quite a few of their games in ‘the Gift Pile’ list.” Another wrote, “I enjoyed this promo. I did 37 achievements, played a ton of games I haven’t opened for a while, bought some great games on sale and even won 3 games without exploiting anything.”
The Great Gift Pile did help raise numbers for a lot of indie games; they provided excellent deals for their customers (Assassin’s Creed I and II for about $10? Hell yes, please); and they made things more fun by giving you objectives to complete for potential prizes. Yeah, some people expected more and felt cheated, others abused the system through exploitation, some aspects could have been worked out better, but I think in general it achieved what it was supposed to: give users deals on a number of top and mid-tier games, boosting sales for a number of titles, and giving people something to talk about.