Want to play video games for free? Just go to the store and ask to “sample” it. For 11 hours. But because I’m no moocher, and not at all because I’ve been ejected from every game store in the country, I’ve had to devise new methods. Free is out of the question, but cheap isn’t. In this article, I look at how gamers can sustain their hobby. Without preposterous advice like “work harder”:
1. Download Steam
Yes, I know the downloading sucks. Yes, I know Steam is harder to navigate than the Pac-Man maze after vodka shots. But if you want cheap…tolerate the inconvenience.
Steam, in case your concept of video games is still two lines and a ball, is an app that allows you to buy games (and downloadable content) online. It has a scoreboard, community, all the bells and whistles. But I just want to point out the discount: Every weekend, Steam has a special deal on a particular game line. And when it does, it slashes prices by up to 75%.
That means games can go as low as $5. This beats even your game store’s discount bin, where they’d be going at $20 minimum. And Steam has been known to slash prices on games that are still retailing at $50. Also, Steam lowers the price of games based on age. Which leads me to to saying…
2. Patience Means Cheaper Games
On average, game prices drop three months after release. After six months, they’re in the discount bin next to Ninja Breadman (wash your hands if you touch that filth).
If a game isn’t on your “I must have this or die” list, then be patient. Unlike sports equipment or clothes, the game store can’t leave it on the shelf for years. In a few months, it’s going to join a huge clearance sale, and you can pick it up for dirt cheap.
This is especially true with “series” games (e.g. Assassin’s Creed). If you’re on a budget, you can “fall behind” by one instalment. So you’re playing part II while others are on part III, and so forth. That means the games are constantly in the budget ($30+) categories as you buy them.
3. Be Loyal (Except in Sim Lim)
Have you noticed there’s no way for game retailers to differentiate themselves? They carry pretty much the same titles. And that’s why in Singapore, these stores bank on loyalty.
Except for Sim Lim. Opening a game store in Sim Lim should legally count as informing others of your ex-convict status. So don’t go there.
Anyway, you want to dodge the big retailers and stay loyal to the small stores. Keep buying from them for two or three months, then see if they have loyalty programs or just give freebies. If they don’t, move on to another. Usually, local stores go out of their way for repeat business.
Apart from giving small discounts, store owners give tip-offs. They would rather warn you against a crap title than sell it to you. Of course, if they don’t recognize you, then you’re fair game.
4. Find An Equivalent
Sometimes, you don’t want a specific game. You just want a specific genre.
For example, you might feel like playing a RPG, or aiming a sniper at someone. You may not be thinking of a specific title (e.g. Neverwinter Nights or Call of Duty). You just want “that general kind of game”. In which case, try shopping for equivalents.
Half the games since 2008 involve looking down a gun barrel, so there are dozens of cheap substitutes for Call of Duty. Likewise, there are plenty of horror survival games without a Resident Evil license, or RPGs that aren’t Dungeons & Dragons based.
And let’s face it; when you’re in this mood, you’re just waiting for the next big thing. This is just to tide you over. So don’t blow too much cash on a passing fancy.
5. Share Accounts If Possible
On some games, you absolutely can’t share accounts. But if it’s not Diablo or something, go ahead and swap accounts / CDs with friends.
Share your games; there’s no need for you to buy every single title you want. See what your friends are buying, and swap with them when they’re done. With single player games, this will save you about two or three additional purchases each month.
Do the same with under-used games or game equipment. If you don’t play a particular title much, or your XBox is a glorified paperweight, swap it with a friend. Don’t cash it in at a second hand store. You will never get as much value out of your swap as you would with a friend.
How do you save money on video games? Comment and let us know!
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