How to be a gamer on the cheap

first_imgVideo games are not a cheap hobby. In addition to the base costs of consoles or updating PC hardware, at $50-$60 games are some of the most expensive media you can consume. To be fair, if you calculate the hours of entertainment per dollar spent, many games probably come out ahead of seeing a movie in the theater or even buying music. But because gaming requires so much money up front, it comes with greater risk — you’re out a lot more cash if you don’t like a game you bought than if you don’t like a movie you see. There are some good ways to cut back on your gaming budget, though, beyond just trading in your old titles. None of these approaches is going to have all the conveniences of buying the latest game at retail, but if you can make a few sacrifices you can get your gaming fix for way less.Keep up with salesThe most basic way to trim your gaming budget is to keep an eye out for sales, and there are several good places to begin.The community at always stays on top of the latest deals. It’s always a good place to check before making a purchase. Our friend at aren’t bad either.Steam is well known for doing regular specials, including their annual Summer sale. They also frequently sell multiplayer games in 4-packs at reduced prices, so you can get a better deal if you’ve got three friends who go in on a game with you.Amazon frequently offers promotional credits on their pre-orders, as well as a “pre-order price guarantee” — if the price fluctuates before launch, you’ll pay the lowest price it hits. GameFlyGamefly is essentially Netflix for games, so it carries with it the same common pitfall: rentals that just sit on your coffee table for ages, long after you’ve spent more than their cost in monthly subscription fees. But if you use Gamefly as your primary source for console and handheld games, it’s a very good deal. For $16/month you can have one game out at a time, so even if it takes you three months to finish a $60 game you’re coming out ahead. For an even better deal, grab a 1-year gift certificate ($156, or $13/month) and redeem it yourself.If you’re going to use GameFly, though, know that there are a few important tips for getting new releases. When a game you want is about to come out, you have to make sure it will be the only thing available on your rental queue. If you have an older “available now” game on the list, it’s likely that GameFly will send you that, even if you’ve sorted the brand new title higher. You’ll also need to make sure to send your previous rental back in time for the new game’s release day.If you’re the sort of gamer that goes to midnight releases, so eager to play the newest thing that you can’t wait, GameFly isn’t for you. The service usually ships new games on the release date or the day before, which means it won’t actually arrive until at least a couple of days after.Live in the pastGames are expensive, but the high prices don’t stay for long. If you can hold off on buying a game for even a few months, you can get it at a discount when it’s no longer the newest, hottest release. In fact, it’s not uncommon for popular $60 titles to hit $20 six months later. Obviously this approach isn’t for the impatient, and it means you won’t be playing and talking about a game when most other people are. But even if you can pick a few games each year that you can wait on, living in the past can save you a good bit of money.Go indieThe indie game scene has exploded in the last few years as digital distribution has made it easier for small teams to get to market. Not only are independently developed games almost always $20 or less, they’ve proven to be a source of fresh and interesting ideas, which is why games like Fez, Bastion, and Braid have been so talked about. You can find indie games on almost any platform, but the best deals are PC and mobile versions in the pay-what-you-like Humble Indie Bundles. Another benefit to independent games is that you can sometimes get early access to them. After Minecraft’s success with the paid-beta model, more indie developers started letting fans buy their way into the unfinished code.Free!The free-to-play model has become very popular recently, and for a budget conscious gamer it’s a good trend. Most free to play games are competitive multiplayer, like League of Legends and Team Fortress 2, but there are exceptions like the massively co-op Realm of the Mad God. If you don’t mind lighter experiences, there are also plenty of free games available on social networking sites, like Facebook and Google Plus, and on mobile platforms.Final thoughtsAt the end of the day, the easiest way to get the games you want, as soon as they release, is often to buy them at retail. But if you can give up a little of that convenience, you can avoid the higher costs that come with it. None of the individual approaches above may fill all your needs, but combining a few that work for you can definitely shave a few dollars off of your gaming budget.last_img

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