8 Ways to Save Money on Video Games

8 Ways to Save Money on Video Games

Good news: Video games are fun.

Bad news: They cost money.

Good news: Unlike many pastimes, you can indulge in gaming without winding up in the poorhouse. In fact, their affordability is one thing that makes video games an ideal family activity.

What’s more, the video game industry is extremely competitive. Games distributed at retail have to compete with free-to-play online games and downloadable titles that are available for mere pennies. It’s easier than ever to fit gaming in your budget, but here are some handy tips that will help you keep more dosh in your pocket.

Evaluate Your Urges and Buy Accordingly — Not as racy as it sounds. Before you splurge on a game, you should take a second to think about what you really want. Obviously, there is no replacement for some titles: Only Mario is Mario. But if you just feel like a good, solid role-playing game, take a look at the digital market first. Look up reviews for RPGs published on PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, and WiiWare. Consider a retro blast from the past on the Virtual Console. Even the App Store has some great RPGs for five dollars or less.

Of course, if you want something long and involved–e.g. Fallout, Dragon Age, Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy–retail is your best bet.

Buy Used Games — GameStop’s used games market is staggeringly huge, but smaller video game retail establishments also have a lot of used titles on hand, and they’re often willing to let them go for discounts that go beyond a couple of bucks. Old sports games can be real bargains: Last year’s Madden game or WWE title will go for a song once the latest version hits the shelf.

Streaming On-Demand (Cloud) Games — If you have a solid Internet connection and a decent amount of bandwidth to play with, you might want to look into streaming games, also called “cloud gaming.” Services like OnLive and Gaikai let you download full games and demos for cheaper than what you’d pay at retail. OnLive has even been experimenting with console game streaming, so even if you swear by your Xbox 360, it’s worth a look.

Buy Games for Special Occasions Only — This is ideal if you’re a parent buying a game for a child, but it’s also a good way for an adult gamer to practice self-discipline. Those of us who grew up with games and can now buy them ourselves lament our backlogs: Each one of us boasts an enormous stack of games that we know we’ll never finish. But when we were gifted games on Christmas or on birthdays, we made sure we squeezed everything we possibly could out of those titles because a new game wasn’t forthcoming for months. Nobody is suggesting that you should shackle your game budget forever, but why not give it a try until you’ve worked through the plastic mountain piled up beside your PlayStation?

Game Rentals — “Renting” a game used to mean going to Blockbuster and selecting a Super Nintendo game to take home for three days. With Blockbuster on the ropes, game rental services have primarily switched to online distribution methods. GameFly, which has multiple plans that revolve around mailing out hard copies of video games, is the most successful service. Competitors include GottaPlay, which has plans that start at $11.95 for one game rental (you can hang on to the game for as long as you like), and Gamerang. Most online rental services offer free shipping and ship their games with a prepaid envelope that you drop into the mailbox when you’re ready to give the games back.

Buy a Game That The Entire Family Can Play — Games have an increasing focus on online and offline multiplayer. Offline multiplayer games-the ones that corral a bunch of players on the couch at once–are well-suited for crowds. Nintendo has a certain expertise at designing multiplayer games, hence the success of Mario Kart, Wii Sports, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and many more. But don’t overlook accessories like Microsoft’s Kinect or Sony’s PlayStation Move either. They’re a bit of an investment since they cost more than a single game, but the multiplayer factor makes the cost well worth it.

Lag Behind a Generation — You can always buy up old iterations of consoles once the newer, shinier versions hit the market. The old technology won’t make you the coolest kid on the block, but you will save gobs of money (which you can use to buy friends). Need proof? Most American retailers, including Wal-Mart, Target, and GameStop, are buying up old models of the Nintendo DS from users who want to switch out for a 3DS. Now’s a great time to grab a Nintendo DSi XL for yourself.

Finally, Play for Free — There is no shortage of free-to-play games on the Internet, and on the iPhone App Store. Not all of them involve looking after cows, either. Try Sony’s Free Realms and explore a huge 3D world, or build a carnival on Facebook with Ravenwood Fair.

Special Thanks: What They Play

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.


  1. One thing I think about when buying a new game is whether or not I need to play it right away to get the full experience. I bought Pokemon Black on launch day so I could play it along with PokeGAF and it was a lot of fun. I would have missed out on the community aspect if I had waited. However, I don’t need to buy Okamiden right away. If I want to, I can wait for the price to go down and have the same experience.

    Also, I only buy new games if I’m going to play them right away, or at least reasonably soon. I don’t really get why people buy games for $60 or $70 and don’t get around to playing them until they’re going for $30. Why do you absolutely have to have that game sitting on your shelf in its shrink wrap for months?

  2. Wow, I was clearly still asleep when I wrote that comment, huh?

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