Video games are probably among the pricier things in life, and if you’re anything like me (i.e. a broke college student scrambling for forgotten loose change in my jeans), you’ve probably struggled keeping up with new releases and consoles because you just don’t have the money. I’ve recently found myself in a position where I can no longer afford to play whatever I want whenever I want, and it’s a real bummer.
There’s no shame in being low-budget or simply economizing on your lifestyle and entertainment expenses, but if gaming is your passion, it can be hard to keep up with the rapidly growing market — and the skyrocketing prices. It’s just plain depressing to walk by a new set of PS4s and feel excluded from some of the major games hitting the shelves.
From my personal experience and that of other seasoned gamers, I bring to you four (legal) tips to game on a tight budget.
1. PC saves the day
While some may argue that a PC alone is as expensive as some consoles or even more so, its obvious multi-use function often goes forgotten. Often, games released for most all platforms are released on PC as well (unless you’re an avid Nintendo fan, in which case you can always sport an emulator), and it’s standard knowledge that PC games are relatively cheaper than their console counterparts. That’s right, the exact same game, sold at least 10 to 15 dollars CHEAPER. PC gamers get all the fun — the sales, the variety, the sweet graphics, the control flexibility, the mods. Upgrading a PC is far simpler than upgrading a console, and far more affordable. Moreover, in a cultural sense, MMOs and RPGs are just known to be best played hunched over a keyboard — although I would advise to straighten up regardless!
2. Keep an eye out for annual sales
I’ve managed to salvage my savings simply by buying my long-awaited games on Steam during their 50-75% off sales. These sales range from season to season, and the major ones pop up in the late autumn and early winter. You can sometimes buy three games at the equivalent of a single commercially sold game during the year. Another great option are Humble Bundle deals — they support charity, offer multi-platform options, and feature dramatic sales on best-selling games. It’s flexible, appealing, and worth an investment.
That said, the PlayStation Network has yearly holiday sales and Flash weekend sales, and Xbox drops their prices during Christmastime to an average of 40% off most games. Unfortunately, Steam doesn’t cross over with other consoles, again pointing to the fact that sometimes you’ll have to sacrifice the pleasure of a Dual Shock and be content with a computer monitor for the love of gaming. At the end of the day, you can play Fallout 4 on PC just as well as you can on the PlayStation. (Or you can get the best of both worlds.)
3. Purchase them used or rent away
If you live in the States or Canada, GameStop and EB Games sell ridiculously cheap games that have been pre-owned. There is also the option of trading in your old games and getting a decent discount on games you purchase in the same store. Luckily, the games reach across all platforms and are usually in great condition.
Otherwise, online classified sites can be used to buy, sell, or trade games (ahem, fond high school memories of meeting up at metro stations to trade with strangers) but at the risk of buying a hack. Make sure the source is trusted, and examine the discs closely for any damage.
Luckily, some stores also offer rental options, but this has diminished in the past years. Renting a game is great and economical because it’s a one-time experience, and if the game stinks, you can return it without frowning about the fortune of money wasted.
4. Wait, for the love of God
Good things come to those who wait. In simple terms, be patient — that console you so desperately want or that brand-new game that seems to hit off 5-star reviews across the web will soon be within reach of your budget. It’s a matter of months for some, years for others. The Witcher 3 will be just as enjoyable a game two years from now as it is today. Trust me, an unopened game will never go stale.
Hope these tips come to some use among those of us who are tuition-riddled students or unemployed at the moment. Sometimes it suffices to sit back and watch a walk-through while feeling terrible about yourself, but nobody should have to subject themselves to game abstinence. Let’s face it, that’s an oath none of us could keep.