10 Ways to Buy Video Games Without Going Broke

waste money
Source: iStock

We pay hundreds of dollars for our Xbox, PlayStation, gaming PC, and whatever TV or monitor we pair with them. If we want to game online, we’re probably also paying for a fast and reliable Internet connection. If we want extra controllers, or maybe a fancy LED keyboard and 8,200 DPI gaming mouse, we can plan on having even lighter wallets. After all these hundreds of dollars (or even thousands), we still don’t have a single game to speak of, unless we count solitaire on PC. Considering how much all the hardware cost, the last thing we want to do is fork out a ton of money for every single game we want to add to our library. Fortunately, there are ways to get your games without breaking the bank.

Whether you game on consoles of PC, there are plenty of ways to save on the games you buy. Some ways will be simple, and some will be more involved, but all of them will help keep you from having to throw down $60 every time you want to get a new game. So, here’s the first trick:

1. Don’t buy them right at release

Games are pretty much at their most expensive right when they first release (unless they become collectibles when they’re really old). So, it’s pretty much a no-brainer that buying them right away isn’t super frugal. So don’t do it. Unless you’re desperate to have the game experience right when it launches, you can safe yourself good money by waiting. There are some secondary benefits to waiting as well: If it’s a big title and involves online gaming, a lot of day-one bugs will likely be worked out by the time you buy, you won’t have to wait on a super-slow download as the servers try to deliver the game to every day-one customer. For PC gamers, waiting to buy a demanding game can also mean significant savings on any hardware upgrades you might have to make to support the game. (Sometimes, if you wait long enough for a game with an online element, it might even become free, like Team Fortress 2, or it will put up all of the DLC for free, like Titanfall did.)

There’s a flip-side to this matter as well. Not buying right at release doesn’t necessarily mean waiting. Some video games will give discounts for pre-orders, though plenty won’t. For PC gamers, though, buying a game while it’s in some sort of early stage, can get you cheaper price than the price at which it officially will launch. If you poke around Steam, you can often find games that are for sale in a pre-Alpha state, and the price will likely be on the cheap side of the scale.

2. Don’t buy them new

best buy
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Used bins are still a thing. Check on online marketplaces or in your local video game store for used games. This is a great and easy way to save yourself some money. Even if you’re only saving a little bit off of the original sale price of a video game, lots of little savings can and will add up. It might be hard to find the latest and greatest games in the bins, since a lot of people hang onto hot new titles for a while, and some just download them, so there’s no hard copy to sell back to a store. PC gamers also don’t have much luck here, as almost no stores will take back a used PC game. Digging around through the used games bins will also help you bide your time while you wait for new releases to get cheaper.

3. Don’t buy them. Period.

video game rental
Source: Gamefly.com

Have you ever bought a video game that felt like it shouldn’t have been $60? There are loads of them. Here are 11 such games. For one thing, you should always be checking out reviews of video games when they’re coming out. Sometimes the hype for a video game can be misleading, and the trailers and “in-engine footage” can make us think we’re going to get a game completely different from what is actually delivered — just look at Watch Dogs. Sometimes games will be launch broken, and we just have to hope that they get fixed if we buy them. Other times they might just be short, or have no replay value. In these cases, just rent the game. Unless you have an irresistible need to clink to the game disc after you’re done playing as some sort of token, there’s really no reason to keep a game around that you’ve already played and have no interested in playing more. If you want to play it again in 10 years, just buy or rent it again in 10 years. This will save you a lot of money.

A second element to this is using rental as a way to test a game you’re unsure about or bridge the gap when you just can’t wait for a game’s price to drop. If you’re seeing bad reviews but are interested in a game, rent it and see what you think. If it turns out bad, you’ll have saved yourself a lot of wasted money. If it’s good, you won’t have spent much extra, and this strategy will probably save you money in the long run. Steam recently started allowing PC gamers to try out games too, offering returns on games that you have played for less than two hours and have owned for less than 14 days. You can also look out for free demos and trial periods to test out a game and avoid buying one that’s not as great as you’d hoped.

4. Wait for regular sales

steam sale
Source: Store.steampowered.com

Many video game marketplaces, whether digital or brick and mortar, will have regular sales. Steam always has a big sale period during the summer (cleverly named the Steam Summer Sale). Other vendors will have regular sale periods as well. Broad events like Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) can also be a great time to shop for games. If you know one of these sales events is coming up, you’re best bet to save a pocketful of cash is obviously to wait for it. If you’re not sure whether one is coming up, a quick Google search for your desired platform or vendor and the word “sale” will probably help you find out. Even brand new games can come heavily discounted in these sales, so keep an eye. Just make sure you don’t buy a game that you know you won’t play for several months, as you may end up paying more than you would later.

5. Get a credit card with gaming-related rewards

Sony rewards visa
Source: Sonyrewards.com

OK, this might be a bit of an involved process, and won’t be a good option for everyone. But if aren’t trying to use your credit card to earn air miles or Amazon credit or anything else, you could be trying to make a percentage of all your purchases go toward video game discounts. One of my co-workers has been using the Sony Rewards card to earn bonus points on game purchases, and then turn around and spend those points on more games. If you look around, you may be able to find cards that fit your needs.

6. Look for bundles

steam bundle orange box
Source: Store.steampowered.com

Buying more things at once may seem like a way to spend more money, but if you are going to buy all the things anyway, it’ll likely be cheaper to buy them as a bundle if you can. Many game publishers will offer premium bundles at the launch of the game that gets you the game and all the DLC when it goes live. Of course, going for one of those bundles isn’t going to save you as much money as buying far away from the launch. Instead, looking for specially discounted bundles like the Humble Bundles or the publisher bundles you can often find on Steam, kind of like the Orange Box, that include a number of title from a series or publisher. These crop up frequently, and you’ll probably find plenty of them during those special sales events I mentioned earlier.

7. Take advantage of special programs

Source: Thinkstock

If you tend to get a lot of games, special gamer programs can save you good money while you build up your stockpile. Best Buy has it’s Gamer’s Club Unlocked program, and GameStop has Power Up Rewards. You pay to enroll in these programs, but they can be worth it if you frequently buy games from these stores. Other stores may have similar programs, so look around and inquire at your favorite store for buying games. Don’t be afraid to ask your preferred store to match prices if you see the game cheaper somewhere else.

For PlayStation and Xbox gamers, you should also look into PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold. These annual subscriptions give you a handful of free games every month. While sometimes they might not be games you want, other times they will be, and by the end of the year, you should find that the value you get from the free games exceeds the cost of the subscription. You can find out all you need to know about PlayStation Plus here, and about Xbox Live Gold here. There’s also Xbox Live Rewards, which lets you rack up points you can then spend on things in the Xbox Store.

8. Sell games when you’re done

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Source: Thinkstock
This point kind of harkens back to No. 3 in that selling a game is like un-buying it. This is a good option for longer games like Grand Theft Auto or ones with a focus on online multiplayer like Call of Duty where renting isn’t as logical. If you know you’re going to want to play a game for a long time, and thus go ahead and buy it, you should think about selling it when you’ve tired of it and moved on to something else. Simply selling is all good and well, but you can save even more money if you plan out your game sale a little bit.
If you’re a member of GameStop’s Power Up program, you can get a bit extra for your used games, and certain periods will offer even more for select games. You might also find that you’ll get a percentage boost on your used games if you use the sale as credit toward a new game purchase. So, if you know you’re going to buy a new game, plan to sell your used games at the same time.

9. Consider becoming a PC gamer

gaming pc alienware
Source: Alienware.com
I’m not going to go on a PCMasterRace rant here — Reddit has that covered. Video game consoles do have their own advantages, but saving money on video games isn’t one of them. As I mentioned earlier, PC gamers can sometimes find cheap options to get a game during an Alpha or Beta stage. In addition, the savings PC gamers can find on Steam are often hard to match on consoles. And then there are all the awesome free games you can play when you just want something fun to play. While consoles might get some free games, PCs get tons of them, and they can be awesome.

10. Check for better deals on different formats

Source: thinkstock

If you always insist on only ever buying physical copies of games or of getting digital downloads, you may be closing the door to savings. Just because a hard copy and a digital copy of a game might still be the same game, that doesn’t mean they’re going to be the same price. Obviously you’re not going to find a used digital copy of a game. You can occasionally find different sale prices between the two formats new as well, so if you’re willing to be flexible, you might save some money. It’s not always going to be one format beating the other, so take a gander at both sides of the fence whenever you’re trying to buy.

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