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Gaming on a budget? Shop Smart, Game Hard!

Photographed by Heartpolkadotts

Hi, my names Russell and I’m an Englishman in Canada. My life at the moment has two fundamental flaws:

  • 1. I’m addicted to games. Not just to playing them, but to owning them. I must have games!
  • 2. I’m broke. I have a son on the way, and I’m not exactly the most well paid individual this side of the old pond.

I have, however, found several ways to tackle these obstacles and, over the course of time, I have saved what is quite possibly a small fortune. I would like to share my tips of frugal gaming with the rest of you, whether it’s because you’re like me and just can’t afford the rising costs of games, or because you’re young and rich and want more games than you’ll ever be able to play!

Stick a pin in it.
We all have at some point what I call MHS (Must Have Syndrome). It occurs when you catch the trailer of a game coming out next month and you begin to drool, your thumbs start to itch, and you find you’re suddenly tired of that game you where happy to rack up more than a hundred hours on just five minutes before hand. Hey! Take a breather, pull yourself together! There are so many great games already out there waiting to be played and you’re already fantasizing over this unreleased marvel! Truth be told, this new game is going to set you back a good $50-60, and you could easily pick up a slightly older game for around $20, brand new! This is a saving of $30-40 that could go back into the pocket, or be put towards another game or two. So sit back, enjoy your collection for a while longer and, guess what? Give it a few months, and that shiny new game will probably be a meager $20-30 at most, and you’ll already be drooling over the next title!


Don’t be afraid of playing pre-owned.
A friend of mine recently refused to buy a game pre-owned, and instead bought it new because chances are “it would be scratched and terrible, and will never work, etcetera“. Ok, maybe once in a blue moon some hapless game clerk will offer a wily youth $5 for the two halves of his scratched to death copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum, but this isn’t common. It’s in the retailer’s best interest to only buy up games that are in good condition (as they need to be able to sell them), and a lot of them have a reconditioning services now.
Here’s another tip though especially if you’re a collector like myself. Get a rapport going with your local game provider, have a chat with him (Chances are if he works in a games shop, and you like video games, then you’ll have a lot to talk about). After this, gather up all pre-owned copies of the one game you want to purchase and meticulously pick out all the best bits: the smartest box (look out for old game stickers that don’t peel or leave fluffy residue. If you want to be super cheeky, you can ask the clerk if they have a fresh box, or to let you take one from another game), the cleanest cover, and make sure that you get all the books and paper work, then double check all the disks to make sure you get the best. In this fashion, I’ve come away from a store with practically mint copies of games for as little as half the price!

Do Some Investigating and Shop Around
It’s always worth looking around for the best prices of games. If you ‘must’ buy a brand new game, then there are a lot of stores that will offer a deal on the first few days of release (either some money off, or they’ll attach a freebie). There are so many great deals out there that a lot of people miss because they have their ‘place to shop’, and they stick with it. My personal haunt is stodgy old Wal-Mart. I’ve found that when games drop off their chart, they will quite often drop the price to $20 until they sell out. Wal-Mart (and others) also offers a weekly circular, and often there is a game or two listed in the electronics section (normally a chart game that isn’t selling as well as they assumed it would; e.g. Duke Nukem and Final Fantasy XIII-2 are just two games I grabbed for some crazy low prices) but, get this, in my case, next door to Wal-Mart is Future shop that offer a price comparison service so I stroll on over with my circular and pick up the same game for the same low price ‘plus’ an extra 10% off to reward my loyalty!
Bringing it back to pre-owned games, I’ve found that pawn shops can sometimes offer ‘huge’ discounts on games and, although their selection is often smaller, I’ve found some real secret gems hidden on those shelves. Please be warned though; I’ve also found some places that are just as happy to try and rip a player off. Would you believe I once walked into one store where they wanted $175 for a pre-owned (and rather battered) copy of Final Fantasy VII? I actually laughed in his face.


Playing and Trading
Now, this doesn’t really suit for as I enjoy having a big collection that I can revisit when I like, and smile wistfully as the missus dusts each case lovingly (or not…). A good friend of mine, who does like to play the brand new games but only ever keeps 4 or 5 games on his shelf, goes for the following method: He will buy a brand new copy of a brand new game and devote a week or two to playing it as much as he wants and, once he is finished with it, he will trade it in while it is still a popular title, so he can get another newly released game (trading for another game rather than cash will sometimes net you a better deal). This way he only ends up spending about quarter of the price. A fine example is the story he told me about when he picked up Mass Effect 3. It was on special for 30 pounds (the British kind, not the KFC-and-Jack-in-the-Box-enabled variety), but when he returned it about three weeks later, he received 35 pounds in store credit. Doesn’t sound like a bad deal to me!
For those who want to gather up and trade in their old games, don’t settle straight off for the $9.50 that the game stores offer for your beloved collection. Truth is, these prices are supplied by the head office and designed to net the company a profit based on the fact they might not be able to sell the game again, but hey, they’re running a business. Instead, take your collection and sell them yourself. Hit e-bay or craigslist, post notices up on the bulletin at work or school or, if you’re lucky enough to have siblings, give them the games and tell them a month later they owe you $40. Just remember, your games collection might not be as valuable as you first thought, (but probably a lot more valuable than a game store is willing to offer), so you must be willing to haggle to find a price you both find fair.

The PlayStation Network
Those of you with a PlayStation 3 (all of you then?) probably hit the store up at least once a week to see what’s new. Personally, I find the PSN to be a two edged sword. New games and full games I find at a glance can cost a fortune, especially for me as a collector (who likes to have the boxes and books to look at), I find some of the price tags a little eye watering. On the other hand, some of the deals they offer are fantastic. Huge discounts on games (and often), with lots of added extras. When shopping for a particular game, always have a quick look on the PSN and, if it is cheaper, always weigh up whether you want your game in a shiny new case or just game for a cheaper price.

Tied in with this is…


PlayStation Plus
This glorious bounty that Sony offers is one of the single greatest purchases I have ever made as a gamer. For a single $50 bill, you get better discounts and piles of free content. Now, personally, I see a lot of people complaining about the free content and how it’s not the games they want, but look at it this way: if PS+ offers just 3 full titles across the whole year that you want to purchase you are already about $10 ahead. Given that there will probably be more that you want to play, plus all the PSN exclusives you’ll play and the money you save by taking advantage of the special offers available, soon that $50 is looking ‘very’ stretchy. And now, with the instant game collection, $50 is a steal.

Downloadable Content
Here’s a rough patch to scrape your knees on, those delicate nuggets of gold, hidden away. So tempting but so costly for the content. I know some people who have sworn off DLC, and others who must have it and sadly, I fall dangerously close to the second category, having probably spent more (when comparing price to content) on DLC than on the games themselves. Here are my two tips though: first, you should wait and see if the content you want drops in price or goes on special. Depending on the game, sometimes it does and you can pick them up for about half the price (or less) and, sometimes, they’re left to gather dust like traps from the Goonies movie. Secondly (my favorite choice): if there is a game that is going to have some truly golden DLC (Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Skyrim, Arkham City, etc), wait for the almost inevitable GOTY or Complete Edition that’s going to come. It may take some time, but it will come. When these pinnacles of gaming first appear, they will be the same price as any regular game, but give them time and the price will drop like any game. Let me give you some fine examples: Dragon Age Origins and all DLC – $20 (Wal-Mart); Borderlands and all DLC – $25 (on PS+); Fallout 3 GOTY – $15 (Pre-owned). Now how about those for some savings huh?

These are just some examples of how this humble shopper saves his pennies, so that his baby will eat and he will game. Please, if you’ve got any great ideas post them in the comments, as I will be clean to take advantage of them! Also, please remember that I shop in Canada, so my examples may not always gel on the American soil, but I believe the principles remain the same. They did in England and I’m sure it’s true elsewhere.

Smoke me a kipper, I’ll be back for breakfast!