Video Games are expensive.
There are always a lot more games that I want to play than I can afford. Renting from a video store is an option, but I want the the luxury of taking my time with a game if I like it, and I don’t want to worry about late fees. I recently found myself looking for ways to get ahold of games that I could keep for as long as I wanted, for as little money as possible. Here are some of the solutions that have worked for me. Let me know in the comments if you have others.
Great Ways to Get Games Cheap
1. Goozex (~$1 per game)
Goozex is a game trading website. Goozex doesn’t actually send you games directly. Instead it puts you in touch with someone who has a game that you want, and automates the trading process.
Every game in Goozex’s database is assigned a point value. These points come from the current price of the game, and the demand for it on the site. The lowest is 100 points. At this level you’ll find mostly older titles or GBA games. The highest is 1000 points. These are new releases on PS3 and Xbox 360. New Wii games are generally 800 – 900 points, reflecting the lower price of Wii titles.
The point values are the same for both “buyers” and “sellers”. Everyone is on an equal playing field. So if you trade a brand-new game, you will earn enough points to request a brand-new game from someone else.
When you request a game you will be charged $1 for a “Goozex Token” when the trade is made; essentially a broker fee. One dollar isn’t bad for new game.
When someone requests a game from you, you will have to pack it up and ship it. Fortunately you can print a shipping label from within the site, so it’s relatively painless. Shipping is usually around around $3. That may seem like an annoying cost, but consider that you may be spending $3 to earn $60 worth of credits.
Once you’ve received a game, it’s yours to keep. It’s automatically added to your Goozex stash, so if you want to trade it again later you just have to click on it.
The one downside to Goozex is that you need to send out a few games and earn some credits before you can start making a lot of requests. You need to have a little patience. But, once you get over the hump and get involved in the system, it’s easy to manage the flow of points going out and points coming in. You’ll probably find that you have points to spare.
If you’d like to give Goozex a try, here’s a link to get started:
2. Gamefly (~8.95+ per month)
Gamefly is a rental service, similar to Netflix. Games arrive in the mail and you can keep them for as long as you want. When you’re ready to sent them back, you just slip them into the included envelope and drop them in the mailbox.
You create a queue of games that you want to play. When Gamefly receives a game from you, they ship out the next one in the queue. If you have a long wish list of games that you want to get to, this is a great way to get through them without having to buy a ton of new games.
If you really enjoy a game, you can click the “keep it” button on the website. You’ll be charged the pre-played price for the game that you want to keep. Gamefly then sends you the original case and manual for the game, and ships out a new rental game.
Speaking of pre-played prices, the Gamefly store generally has very good used prices. To sweeten the deal, you automatically earn Gamefly Dollars the longer you stay with the service. These reward dollars can be spent to buy new games or keep games that you’re currently renting.
The introductory rate for Gamefly is $8.95 per month. After the introductory period you can either choose from either the 1 game at a time plan at $15.95, or the 2 game at a time plan for $22.95. Or you can cancel after the introductory period if you aren’t crazy about the service.
I realize that the recurring cost may off putting. I mean, who wants another bill to pay? But look at it this way; if you usually buy four new games games a year, it would be less expensive to play those four games through Gamefly. In addition you’d have access to as many other games as you want.
If you’d like to try out Gamefly at the introductory rate, here’s a link:
3. Start a Game Club (~$50 to get in)
This may sound totally lame at first, but hear me out. If you have friends that are gamers, chances are a lot of you buy the same games as each other.
Consider this. If you and your friends go out to an Indian restaurant, you don’t all want to order the same thing. You want to coordinate and order lots of different dishes so that you can pass them around. That way everyone gets to try a little bit of something new.
You can do exactly the same thing with games.
With a little coordination between friends you can easily start a game club with a shared library.
You can use a shared Google Docs spreadsheet or something like Delicious Library to keep track of whose got which game checked out. I’d suggest not storing all the games in one physical place, but just keeping track of whose got what. When someone wants to borrow a game, they get it from the “branch” that currently has it.
If one of the members of the club is thinking about buying a game, she can tell the group. If someone in the club already has the game, they can arrange to swap or just lend it out. If no one has the game, a few people may want to pitch in to buy it for the library. The ones who kicked in the money get first dibs on playing it. That way the costs are reduced all around.
You’ll need to lay down some ground rules. For instance, you have to put in to take out. If you break it, you replace it. If you’re sitting on a game that someone else is waiting for, finish up or let them have it, you can always borrow it again later.
There may be some bickering over details. But it shouldn’t be anything a group of friends can’t work out.
In the end it results in lots of people getting to play lots of games for a lot less money than if they had to buy them on their own. And it gives you something to talk about, since you’ll all be borrowing from the same library.
4. Goodwill (~$3.50 – $10.00)
It’s not just for smelly t-shirts! Goodwill is a great place to find games and consoles.
Admittedly, you’re unlikely to find new Wii games amid fondue pots and boom boxes of yesteryear, but you never know. Goodwill tends to price things based on a their category rather than what they’re actually worth, so you may find a well preserved Dreamcast for $30, or a relatively new game for $10.00.
Even if you don’t find the latest games, it’s common to find terrific retro games at Goodwill. You’ll often find vintage NES cartridges, PS1 games, odd PC titles that defy categorization.
The trick with Goodwill is to go in without an agenda. It’s an adventure. Maybe you’ll find something awesome, maybe not. Don’t get your hopes up too high, and keep an open mind. It’s a perfect place to pop into when you’re on your way somewhere else.
You may walk out with the gaming jackpot. Or you may only find a precious moments statuette that reflects your broken inner child. Either way, you come out a winner.
5. Half.com & Ebay (~50% off)
The idea behind Half.com is that they carry pre-owned items for half off the new price. While this isn’t always the case, you can often find prices very near to half off.
As I’m sure you’re aware, Ebay is an auction site. You can bid as much as you’re willing to pay for a particular item, and if you have the highest bid at the end of the auction, the item is yours. The nice thing about this system is that you can set your own price. The downside is that you be the top bidder for as long as a week, only to be sniped at the last minute by an Ebay pro.
Many Ebay auctions have a “Buy it Now” option. These prices vary, but are often quite good. While you may pay a higher price with Buy it Now, you can lock in the purchase right away, which buys you some piece of mind.
By contrast, there’s no haggling or bidding on Half.com. All prices are Buy it Now prices. It functions as an online store just like Amazon, the only difference being that you are buying from individuals or resellers rather than directly from Half.com itself.
At Half.com you can setup a wish list where you can name the price you’d like to pay for a particular item. You’ll get email updates on your wishlist items showing the lowest prices so you can snatch it up if something you’ve been waiting for comes available at the price you wanted to pay.
6. Amazon’s Gold Box Deals of the Day (~whimsical)
This one takes a little bit of vigilance, but if you like your games brand spanking new, this may be your best bet.
The gold box deals are revealed throughout the day, usually starting at 10:00 AM PDT. Once a deal is revealed it is only available in limited quantities and for a limited time. If you don’t want to miss out you can subscribe to the gold box deals here:
You won’t always find video games in the deals of the day. Each day usually has a theme. Sometimes a game will fit into that theme, or sometimes the entire day will be games. It’s hard to predict.
The one thing that’s constant is that you always get a deep discount on a new or hard to find product.
7. Craigslist (~Barter – MSRP)
Craigslist is a free classifieds site where people can and do exchange pretty much everything.
Unlike the other sites we’ve looked at, Craigslist is about making local connections. Usually you aren’t looking for someone to ship you a game, instead you’re going to meet up someplace and do the sale, trade, or whatever in real life.
There is a bit of sketch factor to Craigslist. You’ll see scams from time to time. And the idea of meeting strangers in real life is often freaky. But the vast majority of craigslist interactions are totally satisfying for both parties with little to no weirdness.
You may find that Craigslist posters are willing to trade rather just take cash. If you’ve got something to offer you can just put it out there and see if there are any takers. E.g. “Trampoline set for Wii Fit.” This sort of bartering may be tricky if you’re in an area that doesn’t have a super active Craigslist community, but in a big city you’d be surprised how often someone has what you want, and is looking for what you have.
Craigslist is a gamble. There’s no guarantee that you’ll find what you’re looking for. And in some places the site updates so rapidly that you could go crazy trying to keep up with looking for the game you want. One thing that can help is subscribing to the RSS feed for a particular category and filtering it by the game you’re want.
As with Goodwill, Craigslist can be an adventure. You may not find what you’re looking for, but you may find something else entirely that you didn’t realize you were missing.
An O.K. Way to Get Games Cheap
GameStop is the biggest video game specialty retailer in the U.S. As you browse the shelves it’s easy to see why. Every game, even new ones, have stickers pricing them lower than competing stores. GameStop is able to offer these lower prices by selling pre-owned games that are guaranteed to be in good shape. Of course, you can also get a brand new copy there as well, for the full MSRP.
It seems like a great deal. Customers get some money back for trading in their games, which they can then put toward the purchase of a pre-owned game at a reduced price. Additionally, the Edge card provides another 10% all pre-owned purchases (for an annual fee, which also includes a subscription to Game Informer).
I’ll grant you that GameStop is very convenient. Pretty much every town has one. But if you’re in the GameStop used game ecosystem, I believe that you’re losing value with every purchase and trade-in.
Let’s take a quick look at one of this week’s promotions:
You can get Brütal Legend for $19.99 if you trade in two select games. The full retail price is $59.99. So this is obviously a great price for what looks like a great game. You are kicking in 20 bucks, so you can estimate that each of the games that you’re trading in is also worth $20. That brings you to the full retail price for Brütal Legend, about 60 dollars.
Now, let’s take a look at those select trade in games:
You’ll notice that for the most part, they’re games that have launched within the past year. That means these games are probably still have a lot of value. Let’s just pick the first game on the list, Batman Arkham Asylum, and take a look at how much it sells for used on ebay:
Roughly $38 – $43 dollars. Not bad a bad price for a game that’s still selling for $60 new.
Now, for comparison let’s look at how much a used copy sells for at GameStop:
As you can see, you could buy or sell the game on Ebay for around $40, maybe more. Or you could trade it into GameStop, and get about $20 for it. GameStop would then turn around and resell it to the next person at $50. That means GameStop just made $30 of profit by offering your game at a slightly less than full price. Meanwhile if you’re selling to GameStop you’ve missed out on the $20 difference you could have made on Ebay. And if you’re buying, you’ve missed out on a better price that you could have gotten online.
Now I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with what GameStop does. Buy low and sell high is a fundamental business principle. I merely present this example to illustrate that when you’re buying a used game at GameStop, or trading one in, the only one really getting a deal is GameStop.
It’s totally your choice to buy and sell games there, but I think you could do a lot better for yourself.
For example, let’s see how much Batman Arkham Asylum is worth on Goozex:
1000 points is the standard value for any new game. This means if you traded this game on Goozex today, you could get another game that’s worth $60 new. Sure, you lose a few dollars on shipping and $1 for the “Goozex Token”, but otherwise your game retains its full value. Over time as its points drop, it will still reflect the fair market value for the title whether you’re buying or selling.
Goozex isn’t nearly as convenient as GameStop. Sometimes you have to wait for a title to become available. Sometimes people flake out and don’t ship the game. I’m not saying it’s perfect. But if you’re willing to be patient, it’s a great way to get more value out of your games.
A Lousy Way to Get Games Free
If you’ve been around the internet once or twice, you know that pretty much any game you could want is a mere torrent away. You can download the entire library of some current platforms in an afternoon.
One of the arguments pirates use to justify this is the notion that they don’t pirate games they are planning to buy; only games that they want to try out first or wouldn’t buy anyway.
As we covered above, there are lots of cheap and easy ways to get ahold of games. Anyone can find a way to try a game before they buy it without pirating. And if you have no interest in playing a game anyway, why would you pirate it?
Another argument is that downloading a game is not theft because nothing has actually been taken from anyone. It’s just a copy, and therefore it doesn’t diminish the value of the original. The idea here is that if you were to take a book away from someone, they don’t have the book anymore. So that would be theft. But if you were to just make a copy of the contents of the book, no one is harmed since the original owner keeps the book.
Whether or not you agree with current copyright law, intellectual property is protected. If you want to support the free exchange of ideas, you can checkout Liberated Games via Creative Commons. While you’re at it, donate to Creative Commons and support the work that they do. You can also support open source games, or start one yourself. But while you’re waiting for copyright law to change, you may want to respect that intellectual property is only worth what someone is willing to pay to experience it. By stealing that property, you’re sending a message that their work is worthless.
For Your Consideration
Recently some game industry leaders have said that trading and reselling games is at best a threat to the whole industry, and at worst no different from piracy. The reason being that neither the developer nor the publisher make any money when a game is resold.
That’s a bit like saying that buying a used car is the same as stealing a car, since the manufacturer doesn’t make any money on it. It’s not a super compelling argument.
However, it is worth keeping in mind that video game development and publishing is, first and foremost, a business. Like any business, the primary goal is to make money. When the time comes for a company to finance new game development, one of the most important questions (if not the most important) will be how much money is this game likely to make?
Game companies often base their projected earnings on the past financial success (or failure) of similar games. This is usually a prime factor in deciding whether or not a game gets greenlit for production.
So what does that mean for you as a consumer? Well, it means that the most powerful message you can send to a game publisher is to buy a game at full price at retail, or a legitimate download site. These are the only sales that benefit the developer and the publisher.
This, more than anything else, sends a message to the publisher that you want more of this kind of thing. It means that there’s a market for it – someone willing to buy it – and knowing that makes a publisher a lot more comfortable giving it the go-ahead.
So if you trade a game, or rent it, or get a fantastic deal on it second-hand, and if it really excites you, I’d ask that you consider buying it at a store. I know games are really expensive. But this is the best way to tell a publisher what you want, and to have a real impact on what gets made. It’s way more effective than petitions, forums, or general grousing. And you’ll come away from it with a pristine copy of a game you love.
Do you have any tricks for getting games cheap? Have any of the tips above worked out for you? For these questions or any other thoughts you may have, please leave a comment.