How To Save Money As A Hardcore Gamer
Video game culture has come a long way since the loud and flashy arcades full of coin-ops in the 1980s. Now, gaming at home is an enormous industry, with over $20 billion (that’s billion with a B) spent on video games in the United States alone. Gamers are part of a huge international community of people who love to zone out and escape by immersing themselves in an alternate world where they can control their own destiny with a simple controller.
With so many billions being spent on gaming consoles, accessories, subscriptions, and the games themselves, it might seem like saving money is the furthest thing from hardcore gamers’ minds. However, that’s not the case at all: gamers know that they’ve got an expensive hobby. They’d love to be able to save a few bucks to put toward more gaming gear, the hottest new release, or just general day to day expenses. If you’re a gamer on a budget, take heart: you’re not alone. Here are some ways to save money on your favorite hobby.
Learn to Be Patient
You know all the release dates of the newest consoles and the latest games, you know when the hot new game-changing accessory will be available, and you’ve got them all marked on your calendar. Maybe you’ve even stood in line all night just to be the first to get your hands on a new game as soon as it’s on sale. It’s exciting, and we know the rush of getting to be the first to play a new game on a new system. However, you pay a price for that privilege. If you’re looking to save money, you might need to rethink your game obtaining strategy.
Namely, don’t buy things as soon as they’re released. We know it makes your soul hurt a little bit to wait, but think of the money you’ll save (not to mention the hours of sleep by not standing in line all night, which is an antiquated thing to do anyway). Retailers know that the demand for new stuff is pent up, and they know that they can make a few extra bucks on gamers who must have the newest things right now. If you can wait out the initial rush, you can usually save 10% or more.
For example, new games typically cost in the $60 range. If you can wait two or three months, you can often find them for more like $50. Wait six months, and you’ll increase your likelihood of saving even more. Plus, the used games market will then have some copies of that game from people who have already grown tired of it, giving you the chance to get it for even less.
Buy When Prices Are Low
The big seasons for new video game and console releases are fall and winter. Big names will usually drop just before the holiday shopping season, and game manufacturers know that more people are indoors playing games during the fall and winter because the weather isn’t usually conducive to outdoor activities. However, fall and winter are typically when video game prices are highest. If you want to get the best price on new games and consoles, summer is when prices tend to dip or products tend to go on sale.
That said, there are deals to be had in early January, after the holiday season when no one is buying much. Also, if you’re in the US, you can often score some amazing deals on Black Friday, the big shopping day after Thanksgiving. Of course, to get those prices, you might have to brave some crowds or stay up all night to wait in line. However, your reward will be great games and other gaming merch for the lowest prices of the year.
Rent Before You Own
How many times have you purchased a new game, only to realize that you didn’t really love it as much as you thought you would? You probably felt disappointed, not only in the game, but in the fact that you just wasted fifty bucks. To make sure you really like a game before investing in your own copy, rent a copy for a few days and take it for a test drive. There are a few ways to do this. Gamefly is an online game rental company that works a lot like Netflix: you choose the game you want, and a few days later it’s in your mailbox. Gamefly pays the shipping. Play as long as you want; rental starts at just 53¢ per day. Return it when you’re done, or keep it if you love it and pay a discounted price.
Want to rent a game right now? If you can’t wait a few days for it to come through the mail, you can rent video games from RedBox for $3 a day. To find a pick-up box near you, simply enter your location on the website, and you’ll be given a list of nearby RedBoxes. Or, if you’d prefer to shop locally, check out your local gamer shop for games to rent.
Love Your Gaming Store
Whether your local game shop is a GameStop franchise or an independently-owned store, going there first can help to save you a lot of cash on your gaming addiction. First, when you’re in the market to buy a used game, your local store should be your first stop. Most serious gaming stores will test games to make sure they’re working properly. The store wants to be a reputable game reseller, so you can be confident that you won’t buy a dud. And, if something should go wrong, you have a place to go to register your complaint — that’s often much easier than dealing with an online seller.
Next, your local shop will often offer good deals if you want to trade in your old games or consoles for store credit. This is often a much more valuable option than simply selling your old stuff for cash. For example, your local store might offer you $25 cash for a trade in or $40 store credit. Since you’re probably just going to buy more gaming stuff anyway, you come out ahead when you take the trade in. Plus, stores often run trade in specials where you can get even more store credit, so pay attention to deals and promotions to get the most bang for your buck. If you’re really looking to save money, you might make it a personal rule to not trade in anything unless there’s a promotion going on.
Finally, stores typically offer a frequent customer rewards program, which means that being a regular customer can get you more for your money. GameStop offers PowerUp Rewards, Best Buy offers the My Best Buy Gamers Club, and your independently owned shop may offer its own promotion. And, if it doesn’t, you could suggest starting one to the owner, helping you and all of the store’s customers save money and earning the store lots of repeat business.
Use Discounts for Online Purchases
As always, when you’re making a purchase online, don’t click the “buy” button until you’ve searched for good deals. Check out discount code aggregator sites like CouponLawn to look for percentage off coupons, free shipping codes, and other deals. Also, if you’re in the market for a new game, console, or peripherals like gaming headsets, advanced controllers, and specialized gaming chairs, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of checking the “Today’s Deals” section on Amazon. These are typically customized especially for you, so sign in and take a look at what’s being offered. You may luck out and find what you want at 30% or more off the regular price.
There are a few good gamer community blogs and boards that you should look at on a regular basis, not only to stay involved in the current gaming conversation, but to check for good deals. Cheap Ass Gamer tracks all gaming-related deals, and there are forums where you can interact with other gamers to find out about current pricing. Is There Any Deal is a site that simply tracks pricing and discount opportunities by the hour, and this site is a must-check before making any gaming-related purchase.
Try a Subscription, Try Steam
Lots of software companies are moving away from a single purchase model and toward a subscription model, and the gaming industry is following closely behind. Rather than buying games and having them take up space in your home, you can use a subscription service to play hundreds of games for a monthly price. Just like with magazine subscriptions, a longer gaming subscription costs less per month than a short subscription. You can also cancel any time.
Here are some examples. Let’s say you’ve got an Xbox one. EA Access is a gaming subscription for EA’s “Vault,” a huge selection of titles including FIFA, Madden, and other sports games, Plants vs. Zombies, Battlefield 4, and loads more. This costs $4.99 per month, but if you buy a subscription for a year, it’s just $29.99 — 50% less than paying per month and about half the cost of purchasing a hard copy of a single game. PlayStation Plus is a similar service for PS4 gamers. They’ll give you a two-week trial for free, and then you have to decide if you want to pay: $9.99 for a month, $17.99 for three months, for $49.99 for the whole year. Again, pay for a full year, save substantially, and still pay less than the price of a hard copy of a single game.
Or, for free games, check out Steam. In addition to offering lots of news on the gaming industry and one of the best gaming communities on the web, it also has a substantial catalog of games that you can play for free. You may not see all the games you want, but again: it’s free. You can’t beat the price, especially if you’re on a budget.
Break in as a Beta Tester
The dream job of every hardcore gamer: a beta tester! Play games all day and get paid to do it! It’s not only a good way to save money — it’s a job! Unfortunately, as you might imagine, there’s not a ton of availability for beta testers, and it’s a job that’s in big demand. However, if you’re persistent about trying to get a position doing this, you might luck out and land a spot. Game Testers can match you with a gaming study on a new game; there’s no guarantee that you’ll be asked to participate, but you can fill out their form and hope for the best. Or, if you live near Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, you can sign up to be part of Playtest and try out their latest titles.
Be aware that companies do take beta testing very seriously. This isn’t just a chance for you to play some games for free or for a paycheck. You’ll be asked to play in a particular way, give pointed feedback, and maybe play some games that you might not ordinarily choose. However, as long as you are willing to keep an open mind and be honest about your endeavors and opinions, you might really enjoy being a beta tester and saving some gaming cash while doing it.
If you’re a hardcore gamer, you know that the scariest day of the month is the day the electricity bill lands in your mailbox. If you play games, there’s really no escaping a spike in your electricity usage. However, you can keep your bill down somewhat by not leaving your consoles in idle mode. They’re a quiet power drain, and not turning them off can cost you. Better yet, unplug your consoles when you’re not using them. Depending on how long you leave them off and what your local utility charges, you can potentially save over $100 each year.
Step Away From the Games
We get it: you love video games. However, it’s important to remember that there’s more to life than sitting in a darkened room immersed in a screen-based world. Keep your life in perspective, and remember that you don’t always need to be playing games in order to live a good life. Go outside and see the sun. Take a walk. Smile at other people. There’s a whole world out there, and much of it is free to enjoy.