Let’s face it: as much as we love gaming, it can be a truly pricey hobby. As a gamer, you might spend $60 on a new game, $30-$50 on a DLC Season Pass, and who knows how much on micro-transactions. And that’s assuming you already have the console you want to play on, the amount of controllers you need, and any extra peripherals you might desire.
Though ’tis the season for spending, it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to game. I’ve got some advice for the thrifty consumer, all about how to game on a budget. This article assumes that you want to be a current gen gamer. (If that’s not the case, then the easiest way for you to spend money is to buy an old console and games at yard sales, flea markets, local game shops and bargain bins).
- Have You Tried Waiting?
This might sound ridiculous, but hear me out. We all know that on release, games are at their most expensive. It’s one of the reasons why pre-order deals have worked so well on all of us. Inherently, we know it is an unfair price, and that waiting would let the price go down. But these delicious and tempting pre-order options just pull us away from common sense.
Don’t let them. The types of DLC included in these pre-orders are rarely worth it unless you’re getting a more expensive collector’s edition (which you shouldn’t, if you’re trying to be thrifty). From in-game hoodies to ugly mounts to weapons you won’t use past level two: don’t be fooled into pre-ordering just for the purported goodies.
The second issue people tend to have with waiting is that they have already waited months or years for this particular game. They want it right now! Plus, “what if all of my friends get too high-leveled to want to play with me?”
This is certainly a legitimate concern, but think of the positives. If you wait two weeks, the price is guaranteed to drop, unless it is a Nintendo game. What’s two more weeks when you’ve already waited months? And those aren’t your real friends if they’re not willing to play help you grind up through the levels to join them in the shining ranks of glory. It can even be its own sort of challenge, a gamification of gaming, if you will. Your friends took two weeks to reach level 50. Can you reach it in two days? Find out!
Another good reason to wait has to do with the trend of shipping buggy or incomplete games on launch. Give developers a couple weeks to resolve bugs and send out patches and free DLC. Why be frustrated when you can be happy and thrifty?
- Buy Off-Season
If you find that you can, indeed wait, then I have an even higher level task for you to try: buy games in January and July. These months are considered the off-peak time for video games, and, in addition to specific sales like Cyber Monday, will net you the lowest game prices of the year.
What should you do while you wait for those months? Stock up on longer games, or games you can play over and over again.
I spent months playing Dragon Age: Inquisition, for example, because I wanted to try out some of the different choices and love interests. So far I’ve put 400 hours into the game on just three playthroughs. There are five more love interests I haven’t even tried! Long, interesting games, or grinding games like Minecraft, The Sims, Don’t Starve or Destiny, can keep you occupied for months. There are also MMOs like World of Warcraft, League of Legends and The Elder Scrolls Online to keep you occupied. Dive in!
- Extreme Couponing
There’s nothing quite like a good deal. Check out sites such as Cheapassgamer or The Moneysaver for the latest coupons and deals from around the web. You can also check the forums and comments to see what people who have already used the coupon or deal thought of it.
- Rent or Game the System
If you just can’t wait and couponing isn’t for you, consider renting a game on GameFly or buying used games from GameStop. GameFly isn’t perfect, as the more popular the game is, the harder it will be to get in a timely manner, but it is a really convenient way to try out a game you’re unsure of for cheap.
As for GameStop, if you buy used games you have seven days to return them for a full refund. So wait a couple days after launch, head in and buy used, quickly push through seven days and simply return the game if you don’t like it. Or you could beat the game in seven days and return it. I’m not the police, live your life!
- Buy it, but Buy Smart
So you just can’t wait for a game. No worries, it happens to the best of us. Your next task is to compare and weigh your options.
I generally check GameStop, Best Buy, PSN and Amazon to see who has the cheapest price and best deals. You also have to decide whether you prefer digital or physical, as they can be different prices. Is it worth it to have instant access? Or would you rather save buck and also have a physical copy you can play anywhere? You have to decide which option is the best one for you.
For example, I wanted to buy Fallout 4 and play it as quickly as possible. I checked all over, but the best deal for me was a physical copy from Amazon. Due to some sale involving my Amazon Prime membership, I was able to get the game for a few dollars cheaper than anywhere else, as well as get free, same day shipping. So I had the game in hand a few hours later than I would have with digital, but it was totally worth it at that price. In fact, I can see that it is now $10 more expensive than it was when I bought it. It pays to shop around!
- Is that Season Pass Worth It?
Once you decide to buy the game, you’ll also have to decide if you want to buy a DLC Season Pass, if it is available.
I’m not personally a fan of season passes. Too many games have let me down in terms of DLC. And I don’t usually feel the burning need for same-day DLC that I do for new, full games. I can wait a bit to see the reviews and to ask friends if they think it is worth it. And you have to do the math. If you buy a pass, which includes five DLCs, but you only liked two of the DLCs, did you actually save money? Probably not.
On the other hand, if you are absolutely addicted to a franchise and know that you’d buy all of the DLC no matter what, then get the season pass when it is first offered. I do this for the Borderlands series. I know that I’m getting it all and that’s that. So I give in to my demons and get the pass.
Only you can decide which option is right for you, but I strongly suggest you give waiting a try and then keep track of how much money you spend on a game and its DLC. Afterwards, look at how much you would have spent if you bought new with the season pass. This can help you decide if it’s worth it in the future.
- Sell Your Old Games
If you gave in to temptation and bought the new game, I highly recommend you beat it as quickly as possible and then sell it online, unless it is a game with high replay value. You can get $30 to $40 for a game on Amazon, for example, which tends to be much more than you’d get in GameStop trade in. Other sites to check out are ebay.com and Glyde.com.
You cannot resell a digital copy, so this is a point in favor for buying physical games.
Speaking of which, have a much older game to sell? It’s probably not worth much, but try out listing it at a much higher cost than other vendors. Every once in awhile, a buyer comes along who decides they need to buy the most expensive version of the game. I don’t know why this happens, I just know that it does, and it is a glorious thing. But don’t ever lie about the condition of your game! That’ll just get you a low review score or force you to give out a refund.
- Play on PC
This isn’t an option for everyone, but PC gamers really get a lot of freebies compared to console gamers. For one, you have sites such as GOG.com and Humble Bundle. You also have access to Steam, which has a variety of sales, as well as Steam Greenlight, which usually features cheaper games in earlier stages of creation. If you want a game on Steam and put it in your wishlist, you’ll get an email when it goes on sale. A game on my wishlist is currently $1 right now. $1!!
On top of that, the majority of indie games are made first for PC. Although you should always support the dev team if you like the game, many indie games have opportunities to play them for free, especially if you stream or record Let’s Plays.
That’s not even getting into emulators and free online browser games. PC players have got it made when it comes to thrifty gaming.
So that’s my advice for saving money while getting your game on. Do you have any other tips to share? Tweet us your thrifty game advice.