Hardcore Gaming on a Budget

Deals, Games

dollar sign cut in half

Originally published January 15th, 2013.  There have been updates to the way gamers can save money as well as what systems are available.

As far as hobbies go, you can get more expensive than gaming.  That is not to say that gaming is an inexpensive hobby, but if you are playing more than just Angry Birds on your phone, you are going to start clocking up dollars pretty quick.  And if you consider yourself among the “hardcore” gaming crowd, you might be paying 500 dollars or more every year if you want to play the latest Halo, Battlefield, Call of Duty, Madden, FIFA, or other annual releases.

But if you are on a tight budget, or just looking to save a few bucks here and there, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the best that gaming as to offer.  Here are some money saving cheat codes to power up your game collection and your wallet.

1. Have a little patience. Prices (almost) always come down.

It’s easy to get caught up by the marketing and the forum chatter.  The hype machine is strong with the games industry.  But if you can wait until the initial marketing push is over, you can save some serious cash.  Even just a month or two after release you can save 10, 20, 30 dollars or more.

The highest profile games might take a little longer for the price to fall than the average title, but the price will fall eventually.

2. Buy Multiplayer games new but wait to buy single player games until prices drop.

Midnight launches are great for several reasons.  It can be fun to wait in line with a bunch of like-minded gamers, sharing stories of your favorite moments from the franchise’s history, counting down the minutes until the store opens and you can be one of the first to play the new game.  But all that hype is really dedicated to accomplishing one task, getting your money out of your hands.

In the case of games that feature a heavy multiplayer component, the community is often strongest at launch and dwindles over time.  Therefore, you can dedicate more of your gaming budget to pick up those few releases that have multiplayer modes at launch, while waiting to play single player games until the prices have come down.

3. Recalibrate your sights. Downloadable games (XBLA, PSN, Steam) are a steal at $15.

Many gamers have a tendency to think of five and ten dollar “arcade games” as cheap and the 15 and 20 dollar variety as expensive.  **News flash!!!**  These are all cheap!

Nowadays, it’s common to download a 15 dollar game that we would have happily spent 60 bucks at retail for 10 years ago.  Except these arcade games have better graphics, sound, and you can fit a bunch of them on your hard drive instead of lugging around cartridges and disks.

More and more, you will find that these 15 dollar games actually rival their $60 retail counterparts in terms of features, length, multiplayer modes, graphics and sound.

On top of the already low price that these games launch at, there are sales that cut the prices even lower.  Xbox Live has a Deal of the Week, and Steam has sales so often that it’s hard to tell what the regular prices are.  The main point is, for the price of a couple of Burger King outings, you can get some quality games, and you don’t even have to wait for the UPS guy.

4. Borrow instead of buying (trading is an option too)

If you know a fellow gamer locally and you own the same game consoles, you have some great options available to you.  Lend them your old games and borrow theirs to get some play out of some titles that you wanted to play, but never got around to picking up.  You can even team up and coordinate your purchases so they don’t overlap.  Maybe you agree to pick up game A and your friend will pick up game B.  Swap them when you are done.

While neither you or your friends will likely want to give up your latest multiplayer games, this method is good for playing through some great single player games without paying for the game or even a rental fee.

You might want to make a list of who you lend to and who you borrow from though, just so you don’t find yourself wondering where your copy of The Orange Box is 6 months down the road.

5. Keep an eye out for limited time sales.  i.e. Newsletters.

Amazon.com is good for more than consistently low prices.  They are also good for video game Gold Box days, a Deal of the Day promotion that has the price of certain games drop significantly for 24 hours and sometimes less.

Gamefly is another great source for low price gaming if you don’t mind the fact that the packages were opened by someone else.  Sure, you might call them used but every disk is guaranteed, and you get the case, manual, and any download codes that came with the original game.

Cheap Ass Gamer.  Perhaps your single greatest ally in your quest to save the princess money.  They have a forum dedicated to frugal gamers, regular updates, email alerts.  Pro tip: follow them on Twitter for mid-day cash-saving opportunities.

Steam is known for brutally slashing the prices on PC games on a whim.  You can subscribe to their RSS feed for daily deals here.

By subscribing to the above newsletters you can make sure you are notified when a deal is upcoming.  This way you don’t have to spend your time scrubbing the internet for deals.  You can just wait for them to come to you.

6. Skip some games. You don’t have to play every game that comes out.

“Wait, you mean I don’t have to buy every Call of Duty that comes out every year?”  That’s right, you don’t.  Sure, the TV commercials will try to make you believe otherwise, but you are saving money here, not trying to single handedly fund the gaming industry.  I know this barely qualifies as a tip, but some of you actually need to hear it.

This tip also has the added benefit of reducing your stack of shame.  And who knows, maybe you will actually finally finish GTA IV if you quit buying new games for 5 minutes.

7.  PlayStation Plus and Games with Gold!

If you are gaming on the PSN or Xbox Live platforms, you have some incredible value added to your yearly subscription.  PlayStation Plus gives gamers an assortment of PS4, PS4 or Vita games for nothing more than their $49.99 a year.  You won’t get to keep those games if you cancel your subscription, but it’s a great way to built a library of games for as long as you are a subscriber.

Xbox Live is stealing one from the PSN playbook with Games with Gold.  Games with Gold gets you two games a month for the Xbox 360 (no Xbox One games yet, though that’s coming in 2014).  You don’t get to pick the games, but you do get to keep them, whether or not you continue subscribing to the service after you download them.

Now may be the time to turn your Xbox 360 into the ultimate arcade cabinet.  Pick up a 320 GB hard drive and load it up with your two games a month.  This makes for a great portable gaming rig as you don’t need any discs to have a large library ready to roll.

Xbox 360 320 GB hard drives

Misc. quick tips:

  • If you don’t need to keep your old games you can trade them in for credit towards your next purchase.  Amazon usually offers the best trade-in values.
  • If you are a Gamefly subscriber, you may not know that you can change your plan month-to-month.  This allows you to get two games out during the busier months, and roll back to a 1 game plan during the slower times.
  • More Gamefly goodness:  Every few months you get some Gamefly credit.  When you get your next credit issue, you have exactly one day to spend your old credit before it vanishes for good.  If you time it right, you can apply both the old and new credit on the same day.  Bam!  Instant 10 dollar game for free.

With a little restraint and patience, you can still enjoy all of gaming’s best, and still have money for food left over.

Now I suppose I should go finish playing through GTAIV.  Please share your tips for saving money on video games in the comments!

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