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As kids, us gamers saved money, dollar by dollar, often committing entire allowances for the newest games hitting the shelves. Not much has changed. Twenty years later, we, along with new generations of gamers, continue purchasing games, albeit a much wider variety of them on numerous platforms.

Gaming, like most hobbies and fun things in life, can get rather pricey. This cost includes the platform, accessories, relevant membership payments, and finally the games themselves. In fact, the games themselves can easily account for significant fraction of this cost. With a weaker economy, some of us have had to scale back on gaming. Fortunately, there are ways to keep a heavier wallet or get a better bang for the buck. Here are 5 tips for getting better deals on your games:

1. Wait for the Price to Drop

Smart shopping involves equal parts patience and effort. Occasionally, it just requires patience. Games almost always release at the highest price that they’re likely to ever have. Over time, they tend to lose their value, and within a year the price plummets. Prices continue to drop as time elapses, turning even big studio games into bargain deals.

For example, the well received Max Payne 3 retailed at about $60.00 this time last year, but now prices for around $20.00 on Amazon. The wildly lauded Bioshock: Infinite and Mario Galaxy no longer carry full price tags, and PC titans Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty and Portal 2 sell at a fraction of their debut prices.

Although the cost of a game drops considerably over time, the actual game content itself remains mostly unchanged, and sometimes even improves. So, there are three takeaways from this concept:

  • Think before preordering: Preordering can lock in a game price at the maximum expense. Preordering usually comes with some goodies, but make sure they’re worth what you’ll end up paying.
  • Wait for a price drop: It’s hard telling yourself “no,” but it can save money in the long run. Purchasing a game at its priciest doesn’t always make sense, so wait for the price to fall before buying.
  • Look for last year’s games: Each year enjoys fabulous game releases. Instead of waiting months for a price drop, why not find award winning games at an already discounted price?

2. Purchase Games on Sale

When possible, purchase games on sale. Sales vary, of course, but why not get at least an extra 10-15% off? After all, a penny saved is a penny earned. Sometimes, other sales can get you better value and provide additional content for a similar price.

Some sales do have some fine print and/or limitations, so it’s always important to understand how the sale works before purchasing. Here are some possible sales ideas which can help out when shopping:

  • Purchase around holidays: This one is pretty self explanatory. Holidays, and not just Christmas, are often fertile ground for special sales. Some big savings can happen around this time.
  • Look at other game stores/sites: Stores sometimes offer sales on different items at different times, so it can be worth your while to check out a few gaming sources before dropping cash.
  • Look for bundle sales: Instead of buying games individually, look for game bundles. Individually purchasing games almost always ends up costing more in the long run than buying a prepackaged set.

3. Search for the used games

Although the industry may be shifting away from this in the future, used games are currently some of the best deals possible. Finding a used copy of a game can take some effort and research, but a good find can save crazy amounts of money, especially in multi-purchase scenarios. Here are some places to find used games:

  • Craigslist: This one is very much potluck, but there are plenty of daily opportunities for game trading and selling. Some outrageously good deals lurk around, but some caution should be exercised as it’s pretty laissez faire here.
  • Ebay: This is another place where fantastic savings materialize. It can take patience and skill, since the best deals often entail bidding against other buyers in online auctions. Know when to pounce, but also know when to back out.
  • Amazon: This is another site which can have some great deals on used games. There’s not the same kind of Ebay style aggressive bidding, so it’s easier to get a certain price with Amazon. As a trade off, though, there’s also less opportunities for landing amazing deals.
  • Game Stores: Most game stores, and even some large electronics retailers, contain used game sections which offer games at a discount. As an extra perk, game stores such as Gamestop guarantee their used games for a short time to make sure that they work.

One note of caution. As with buying any used product, verify that the seller has a good reputation and inspect the product for damage whenever possible. Also, be aware that some games, especially PC games, have “one use only” unlock codes. In addition, some games simply cannot be shared, especially those tied to online accounts.

4. Avoid Purchasing Bad Games

Paying for a game which falls short of expectations is never fun. Unfortunately, many stores will not accept a returned game once the packaging has been removed, or refund it once it’s been activated. Researching a game prior to purchase can help avoid situations like that. Here are some ways to do that:

  • Play a trial: Game trials are designed expose the general flavor of a game to the player, so sampling a trial is far and above the best way to research a game before purchase.
  • Read reviews: Reading a game’s reviews can help determine whether a game is worth buying. Everyone has their own idea of what makes a perfect game, but if a good chunk of a game’s players received a negative impression, chances are that it has some pretty serious flaws.
  • Check for expert opinions: Sometimes, the critics are right. Before purchase, see if the game has been rated by a respected source, such as IGN, Gamespot, PC Gamer, Metacritic, and 1Up, among many others.

5. Rent Games

Game length and replayability varies wildly from game to game, but, like movies, some games are frankly just rentable. Some games just don’t have long term value due to design issues or just very short storylines. In these cases, a great alternative is renting the game. Many new releases can be found at Redbox machines around cities, and there are more titles available from sources like However, rental programs vary, so it’s important to understand the terms before committing.

While there will be no exchange of ownership, sometimes it’s worth it to just enjoy a game for a few nights at a fraction of the purchase cost.

Cracking open a new game feels great. It feels even better when the game was purchased at a great price. With a little patience and effort, a gamer can walk away with either far more value for their price, or the same value at a lower cost. Stretch dollars as far as they’ll go and your bank account will thank you.

Many gamers have become money conscious due to both age and life changes, and the recent economic downturn has certainly encouraged frugality. However, this isn’t a bad thing and it doesn’t have to spell an end to gaming. After all, we should be smarter with our money and it never hurts to think before buying.

In fact, finding ways to get more with less can be the best game of all.

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