Gaming on a Budget

With gamers across the world saving money for the imminent release of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, I think it’s an appropriate time to mention that gaming is an expensive habit, a really expensive habit. Just getting a console or a gaming PC will burn a hole in your pocket pretty quickly. The cheapest current generation consoles on shelves today are a new 4GB Xbox 360 and a 5GB PS3 at $199.99 each. As for gaming PC’s, if someone tells you that they have one capable of running the newest games at their standard settings for under $1000, walk away because they’re probably trying to swindle you. A brand new game costs about $59.99, so if you only get two games a year, you’re spending around $120.00. But today lots of games will release downloadable content usually costing about $15, so if a game releases four instalments of DLC and you get all of them, you’re paying about $120 for just one game. But what if you want to play your games online? Well, if you have an Xbox 360, you’re paying an additional $59.99 per year to play online and Sony will begin charging for online gaming access on the PS4 as well. The expenses just keep on mounting.

The cost of gaming isn’t going down any time in the foreseeable future. In fact, as consoles become more powerful and developers can do more with a game, production costs will go up, costs which will be passed down to us gamers.  But there are a few ways to save money while still playing plenty of great games.


1. Let the new consoles gather a little dust.

New consoles are always appealing, they’re new, powerful, sleek and modern, but it isn’t necessarily a good idea to get a new console on day one, or even in year one. Video game consoles rarely debut accompanied by a wide variety of quality games. Due to the time it takes developers to make a game and when they’re able to begin working on games for next generation consoles, new consoles won’t begin seeing consistent releases of good games until the year after they are released, at which time, the consoles will be much cheaper and will probably run more efficiently due to a year’s worth of system updates. Besides, previous generation consoles typically continue to see widespread releases for as many as three years after the release of their successors, so you don’t have to worry about missing out on new games if you don’t have a new console.


2. When it comes to new games, play the waiting game.

I’m sure more than a few gamers know what it’s like to anticipate a game’s release so much that they count down the hours until the midnight release, but sometimes it’s  better to wait a bit for a game that you were really looking forward to . For some of the biggest, most anticipated games such as Elder Scrolls, Mass Effect, Bioshock and Fallout, a year after their release, the publishers behind these games will occasionally release a “Game of the Year” or “Best Seller” edition including DLC, and sometimes some concept art or perhaps a code for a free download of the soundtrack, all for only a little more than the initial cost of the game on the original release date. Digital distributors of PC titles like Steam or Gamestop constantly have individual titles on sale even if they’re not having a large scale sale so a little bit of waiting could save you as much as 75% on any given game if you wait a bit after the release of the game to get it. There’s also the matter of games on an annual release cycle, games like Call of Duty, FIFA, NHL, Madden and Assassin’s Creed. Plenty of people buy these games on day one, but when the newest instalment of the series is finally announced, the prices of the previous year’s titles are generally slashed. Some retailers will even put on a special sale on the older games a few months prior to the new release to try to draw in new fans or people who just didn’t get around to the games when they first came out. And don’t be worried about online matchmaking, even on the edge of the release of FIFA 14 there are still tens of thousands of online players on FIFA 12 at any moment, and there’s never lack of players on any Call of Duty or Halo title.


3.  Buy used games.

Even years after a games release, used games are generally cheaper than their unopened counterparts. Some retailers will have sales on used games for buy two get one free, but they rarely if ever put on these kinds of sales for new games. Just make sure to keep your receipt handy in case the disc is scratched and you can shave hundreds if not thousands of dollars off of the price you pay for your game collection. Although you can also get consoles used, you can rarely get a warranty with a used console so it might be a better idea to save up for the new version of the console rather than the used one. Due to concerns about hackers and viruses, no retailer sells PC games, so if you’re a PC gamer, you’ll need to try to stick to sales from digital distribution services to save money.


4. Don’t throw out or sell your old games and systems.

If everyone followed this advice it would make getting a used game impossible, but this suggestion isn’t meant to be followed strictly, by all means, trade in games that you don’t intend to play again, or games that are released on an annual cycle, but hang on to your favourite games and the consoles you played them on because backwards compatibility is becoming an increasingly rare thing. Some games just hold up well over time despite not meeting current standards of graphical capabilities or having outdated mechanics. Personally, I’d take Final Fantasy X or the first God of War over most of the games being released today, and I’m sure most gamers would say the same thing about their own favourite titles. If you still have your favourite games and the consoles needed to play them, you can play an old game that you love when you don’t have the cash for a new game. Once all games have digital versions available for download, this advice will be useless, but we’re a while away from that point in time.


If you want to play games, you’re going to spend money, and a lot of it, but if you wait for price drops and sales, buy used and hang onto the games you love, you can save plenty of money to spend on other things, or you can just expand that game collection.

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