If you’re a regular reader here at Geekphoria, you’ll know that I’m a graduate student. The decision to dedicate your life to that noble pursuit means that you have to make some sacrifices–and after free time, your level of income is the most drastically affected.
I know, I know. No free time and no money makes it difficult to be a gamer. That’s why you just need to be dedicated. And also, be really awesome at procrastination.
It’s hard to game on a budget, though. Things are especially difficult if you’re a fan of a play-to-play MMO, or if you want to be informed and up-to-date with the latest conversations on IGN. It is in solidarity that I’ve decided to share my (definitely not secret) tips for gaming on a budget.
1) Rent or borrow a game before you decide to purchase it for yourself.
You may not know if you’ll enjoy a certain game before you get your hands on it, so it’s not practical to shovel out $60 unless you’re sure you’ll enjoy it. If you rent it (from somewhere like Family Video, Redbox, or Gamefly) or borrow it from a friend, you have a chance to play it before you decide to commit. If your opinion on the game runs somewhere in the middle, you can even decide to forego buying it and just play the rented/borrowed copy.
2) Plan in advance.
Every year, IGN publishes a couple lists of the games that are expected to be released that year (here are some links to lists for 2013). I use these to decide which games I’m willing to pay for “new”, and which ones I’m willing to wait to buy. Last year, I decided that I would pre-order Lego: Lord of the Rings (Wii), Resident Evil 6 (Xbox 360), and Assassin’s Creed 3 (Xbox 360). I would wait for reviews before I decided to buy other games, and I would be able to plan the expenses by month (and spread out purchases, if possible). This year, I’m eyeing Dead Space 3, Tomb Raider, Bioshock: Infinite and Star Trek: The Game for pre-order purchases. (That is, if Star Trek: The Game ever decides to be released. Each year it’s becoming more and more of a “maybe” for a new purchase). The first three are released close together, though, so I will probably prune the list down to two.
I’ve also found that it’s “safer” to purchase new games if 1) there’s a lot of hype over the game and the pre-release reviews are glowing, and 2) if it’s part of a series. While it may not live up to the first (or best) game in the series, I always enjoy the nostalgia (see RE6).
3) Buy local.
This goes for both new and used games. Many record stores will sell new and used games, and I’ve found that these are some of the best places to buy games–especially when it comes to the classics. They also tend to mark down used games like they mark down used movies–they usually run between $10 and $20, no matter how recently they were released. Since the games are so inexpensive, I usually buy several games. Then I get to support local businesses and get my game fix.
4) Buy on Ebay.
This is kind of the opposite of the last suggestion, but it also works (and works the best when you want games for old systems–I buy all my Dreamcast and N64 games off of Ebay). The fact that there are usually many sellers means that you can shop around for something in your price range. Video games are usually listed as “Buy it Now”–unless they’re games that are worth a lot of money.
5) Wait for sales.
I often buy up a lot of games during Black Friday sales (I also do pretty much all my DVD shopping on that one day a year). I also keep an eye on Steam and Xbox Live sales (though I know some people don’t like digital copies, I don’t mind getting a digital copy of a game if I can get it at a great discount). These sales can be good when they’re highlight popular, good games. However, these sales can also promote some awful games. Use discretion.
These are my key suggestions. Let me know if I’ve missed anything important in the comments! I’ll see you all in a few days, with new craftiness.