6 ways to save money on video games
Find out where smart gamers go to find bargains.
Video gaming can be an expensive hobby.
The $200-plus you've just spent on that new game console is just a start. Throw in some extra controllers, cables and a stack of A-list titles and you're talking about a big chunk of change.
So how can a video gamer on a budget save money? That's where David Abrams steps in. Known as CheapyD in the gaming community, Abrams is the founder of Cheap Ass Gamer, the de facto Web site for video game bargains.
Abrams and his legion of frugal gamers have turned the six-year-old site into a thriving community of budget-conscious shoppers. To put it simply: If it's a good deal, it'll be listed on his site.
With the help of Abrams, we've compiled a list of smart ways you can save on video games. (If you're a nongamer, and you have gamers on your Christmas shopping list, skip to the bottom of this post). Here are six ways to save:
1. Shop smart
The usual shopping strategies apply to video games: Buy on sale, shop the clearance bins, use coupons and rebates, etc. You can make this task easy by visiting Abram's site (free registration required). Once there, a great place to start is the weekly "Best of the Sunday Ads" post, a roundup of gaming bargains found at major retailers.
"Our community posts every video game sale, deal and promotion," Abrams says. "Sure, you can do all the legwork yourself . . . but why bother when all this information will be listed on CAG?"
2. Rent first
If you're unsure if you want to pay top dollar for a new release or you just want to satiate your curiosity, you can try before you buy.
Two rental options exist:
- Brick-and-mortar video stores such as Blockbuster, Hollywood Video or your local mom-and-pop shop.
- Online game rental outlets, which operate similarly to Netflix. The most popular is Gamefly (free trial codes are easy to find).
"A lot of games are worth playing through but don't necessarily deserve a purchase at full price or a place in your collection after they've been beaten," Abrams says. "For the gamer who wants to play these types of games soon after they are released, and not wait for a sale or price drop, renting is a great way to play more for less."
3. Go old school
It's simple: The newest and most popular titles cost the most. Most games, on average, fall in value by at least a half a year after release.
If you can live without cutting-edge graphics, games for older consoles such as the PlayStation 2, the original Xbox and GameCube sell for cheap (As in less than $5). Used consoles can be found for a fraction of their original price, often bundled with a stack of games.
4. Buy used
Great deals abound in retailers' used game sections, on online auction sites such as eBay, through Craigslist or even at garage sales. Just be sure games are not scratched or otherwise damaged (reputable retailers will allow for returns; GameStop's is 30 days). If you're buying a used PC game, make sure it includes the activation code.
It's a mistake, though, to assume that buying used is always the best deal, Abrams says. "Some online retailers will discount new copies of games more than another store's used copy."
5. Play then trade (or sell)
If you finish a game, or start one and give up, don't let your disc sit on a shelf collecting dust. If you're never going to touch it again, trade it in at a retailer or sell it on eBay. The longer you wait, the more your game decreases in value.
"The key to reselling your games is to be well-informed," Abrams says. Know how much your game is worth and find out if any retailers are offering promotions (Amazon, Toy 'R' Us and GameStop frequently try to one-up each other).
Another option to consider: Trading games using an online middleman. The Game Trading Zone is a community of gamers where trades are listed online and worked out between members. Goozex uses a point system for game and movie trades: You send a game to another member and receive points based on its value. You then use the points to purchase a game from another user (a $1 fee is charged by Goozex for every copy you receive).
6. Start a game co-op
This idea is simple:
- Gather up your gaming buddies (conversing via e-mail will work).
- Make a list of game that everyone owns and is willing to trade.
- Make individual trading deals between friends (this works best if the games are close to equal value).
- Repeat as games are finished and keep the circle moving.
Of course, this strategy won't work if everyone wants to play the same online game together, but for single-player titles, it's a simple way to stretch gaming dollars.
Don't know where to start?
If you are clueless about games, and you have a gamer to shop for this Christmas, be sure to ask the recipient for specifics about what he or she wants. Blindly purchasing a game or going on the advice of a retail clerk is a recipe for disaster. Also, you don't have to focus on just games -- extra controllers, a new set of headphones or even a cool game-themed T-shirt might be appreciated.
Once you have your favorite gamer's wish list in hand, Abrams says the easiest way to get your holiday shopping done is to visit Amazon on the three-day weekend after Thanksgiving.
"Amazon had the best video game deals last holiday season, and I would imagine they will repeat this year," Abrams says. "Find out what holiday gifts you need to buy before Black Friday so you are ready to go."
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