Smart Buying

5 Ways to Save on Video Games

Use these strategies to cut your spending on digital entertainment.

For console (Xbox, Playstation, Wii) and mobile (smart phones, tablets) gamers and their parents who empty their wallets to support them, it’s clear who’s really winning: The video game industry itself, which raked in more than $21 billion of consumers’ money in 2013. But smart shoppers can save big by practicing a little patience and comparing offers on new and used games. Consider these five strategies to cut your household spending on games:

1. Wait. New games almost always hit the shelves at about $60 a pop, but prices will drop. Andrew Schrage, co-owner of personal finance blog Money Crashers, recommends waiting at least 30 days before picking up a new release. Louis Ramirez, senior features writer at DealNews, recommends waiting even longer for the best deals: “Wait five months, and you can find many popular titles at $20 or less. After five months, you’re paying less than half price for your games.”

2. Get a deal on preorders. If you or your child can’t wait for a game, compare special offers on pre-orders. Look for deals that include gift cards or store credit. For instance, BestBuy.com, Amazon.com, and GameStop.com all charge $59.99 to pre-order the Batman Arkham Knight game, but members of the free My Best Buy program receive $10 in store credit when pre-ordering the game. Preorders also typically include free exclusive in-game content that can differ by merchant.

3. Buy used games from Amazon, Craigslist, Glyde, or Half.com. “This is a particularly great tactic for gamers who don't need to have the latest games the minute they're out,” says DealNews’ Ramirez. “[These sites] offer better discounts than GameStop. For example, right now you can get a used copy of FIFA 14 for Xbox One for $33 on Glyde, versus $54 at GameStop for the same title.”

4. Rent video games from services such as Redbox and Gamefly. Renting is a cost-effective way to enjoy new games for a limited time and to test-drive games before buying them for as much as $60. Score a free rental every month from Redbox by texting “GAMETIME” to Redbox at 727272. Gamers can rent additional titles from Redbox for $2 a day. Gamefly operates a subscription model similar to Netflix, whereby you pay $15.95 a month to rent one game at a time. To be able to rent two games simultaneously, upgrade to the $22.95 subscription. “If you do not replay games in your collection, then you are better off renting than paying $60 per title for a game you’ll only play once,” says DealNews’ Ramirez. Gamefly often offers a free one-month trial.

5. Beware pesky fees. Casual mobile gamers may be tempted by game apps labeled as “free” in the app stores, but such games often include microtransactions -- easy, one-touch charges for in-game bonus content -- that can make the game more expensive than similar versions with a flat upfront cost. To avoid these fees, Money Crashers’ Schrage suggests disabling the iTunes or Google Play store. “You can also disable in-app purchases,” he says. “If those options are too restrictive, you can create a password that is needed before making a purchase.”

Likewise, online multiplayer games may offer “downloadable content for a fee” (DLC). Without these DLC packages, players may not be able to participate in some parts of the game. If you anticipate paying for DLC, consider ordering it up front. Games that feature periodic DLC typically offer a “season pass” at discounts of 10% or more.

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