Hitman 3 goes on sale, then off sale, in Epic’s Lunar New Year Sale

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There was expectation, or at least a sense of hope, that Hitman 3 would get a hefty discount in the Steam Lunar New Year Sale that kicked off today. Many fans were unhappy about the game launching on Steam at full price last week after a year of Epic Store exclusivity, and have been expressing their discontent with negative user reviews; the reaction was strong enough that IO announced earlier today that anyone who purchases the game on Steam prior to February 19 will be upgraded to the next-higher edition for free. The price remained unchanged, however.

When the Steam Lunar New Year Sale began, Hitman 3 was still the full price of $60/£50/€60. That didn’t go over particularly well with gamers, who expressed their disappointment in the Steam forums. But the situation was complicated by the fact that the price did go down on the Epic Games Store, which launched its own Lunar New Year Sale today, by 50%.

My first thought was that the Steam price change was simply delayed: The initial crush of bargain hunters means discounts can sometimes take awhile to appear on store pages when a Steam sale first starts, which is why you’ll occasionally see games listed on the front page of a new Steam sale with no discount applied. But as more time passed, it became apparent that the Steam release wasn’t going to be put on sale.

Then things took another turn. About an hour after Epic’s Lunar New Year Sale began, the discount on Hitman 3 was removed without warning—it was returned to full price on Epic as well as Steam. That leaves things where they currently stand, with no sale price on Hitman 3 on either of the two major digital storefronts.

IO Interactive hasn’t commented on the situation yet, but one theory is that Steam’s pricing policies are responsible. Hitman 3 launched on Steam on January 20, one week ago, and Steam does not allow discounts to be applied within 30 days of a game’s release. From the Steamworks documentation:

Generally, you cannot submit a discount within 30 days of release or 30 days from when the launch discount ends. However, you can submit a launch discount to take effect when your game first releases, and if your product releases within 7 days of a major sale event (like the Steam Summer Sale, for example), Valve can help you extend that introductory launch discount to last through the sale event.

That prevents IO Interactive from lowering the price of Hitman 3 in the Steam Sale, but that’s only half of the issue. The other half arises from Valve’s reported policies on price parity: Wolfire Games founder David Rosen alleged in a May 2021 blog post that Valve has an unwritten rule against offering games cheaper on other digital storefronts than they are on Steam.

“When new videogame stores were opening that charged much lower commissions than Valve, I decided that I would provide my game Overgrowth at a lower price to take advantage of the lower commission rates,” Rosen wrote. “But when I asked Valve about this plan, they replied that they would remove Overgrowth from Steam if I allowed it to be sold at a lower price anywhere, even from my own website without Steam keys and without Steam’s DRM.”

Rosen’s antitrust lawsuit against Valve was dismissed in November 2021, but questions about Valve’s attitude toward price parity remain—especially since a reduction in platform cuts on both the Epic and Microsoft store fronts have not resulted in lower regular prices on either. Even if it’s not a policy, though, IO Interactive may simply want to avoid ruffling feathers—either Valve’s or gamers’—by offering Hitman 3 at a discount that’s not available on Steam.

I’ve reached out to IO Interactive to inquire about the pricing, and the reason for the sale reversal on the Epic Store, and will update if I receive a reply. In the meantime, you actually can pick up Hitman 3 on sale in one place: The Humble Store has Epic Game Store keys on for half-price until February 2.

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