Steam Summer Sale 2019 was one of the most confusing events Valve has ever come up with for their Steam sale specials, and it showed. Not only have players been annoyed to hell and back with various rules and stipulations, but the developers aren't too happy about it, either.
At the centre of it all is the Grand Prix meta-game which invited players to compete in teams in an attempt to win various rewards, most valuable of which was a great number of free games that Steam was giving away. Sadly, it didn't pan out for the devs.
The crux of the issue, as it seems, was the apparent complexity of the meta-game, which left players unsure on what is it, exactly, that they were supposed to do. Due to the fact that free games were awarded depending on what players had wishlisted, this resulted in players cutting their wishlists down by a massive margin.
Since developers use wishlists to predict sale success on Steam, seeing players revamp theirs so drastically threw virtually everyone out of whack, and some devs have even correlated this directly with their excessively low sales numbers: "For an unreleased indie title, wishlists are our lifeblood; it’s how we get noticed on the platform. It’s saddening to see many of our fellow devs being hit hard by this sale," said Clockwork Giant games, developers of Vulpine.
Furthermore, algorithm changes seem to be afoot, as some developers have noticed that the majority of their game page traffic comes not from Steam, but from other sources:. Now, developers are extremely unhappy with the end-result of the Summer Sale: "Before October 2018 (and for a few months after that while I gave Steam the benefit of the doubt), I told anyone who asked me that Steam was 100% worth it for indie developers," said developer of To The Dark Tower, adding that this is no longer the case at all.
Is this a one-time mess up from Valve, or a sign of future problems with the platform? Only time will tell.