5 hacks to save money on all your video games this year — and pay hundreds of dollars less
Video games aren't cheap. With crowd favorites like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe listed at $60 a pop, it's no surprise that the gaming industry raked in $91 billion in 2016 — or that some estimates of lifetime costs for serious gamers run into five figures, if you include the cost of consoles and other hardware.
Many gamers justify the expense by thinking of the amount of fun we get out of our games: They cost more than a movie ticket or music album, but typically offer dozens (if not hundreds) of hours of entertainment.
But even if you're a hardcore enthusiast, you rarely need to pay full price for a game — and there are more ways than ever to save money. Even better, you don't have to wait for the next holiday sale to get these bargains, because they're available year-round. Knowing where to look and a few handy tricks is what it's all about. If you have Amazon Prime, for example, you still have through Friday to save 20% and pay only $48 for Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.
Already paid full price? Never again. Here are five of the best ways to always save money on the games you buy.
1. Go through Amazon and Best Buy for 20% off every time
Waiting is easier for certain titles, but if you want access to games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe or Horizon Zero Dawn right away, you've got options. And Amazon and Best Buy provide a compelling reason to buy from them.
Amazon Prime members get 20% off all new games up to two weeks after launch. If you live in the continental U.S., Amazon even delivers your game on the release date. My Best Buy Gamers Club members also get 20% off of new games and 10% off used games. Trading in games to Best Buy will also net you 10% more cash when selling your old games.
Membership to Best Buy's club will run you $30 for two years and Amazon Prime costs $99 a year. But if you buy a lot of games or use your Prime membership for other purchases, it's worth it.
Say you purchase a game every month, each costing $60: 20% off will save you $144 each year. Best Buy's option is cheaper and more flexible than Amazon's (since you get 20% off any new game, even if it's been out for more than two weeks), but odds are you already have a friend with Prime. Put that hookup to good use.
2. Buy physical games, not digital downloads
Most advice for saving money on video games centers around buying the physical version instead of a digital download. While some games are exclusively digital, most major titles go the caveman route of offering physical media. When possible, always go for the discs or cartridges.
Games on physical media offer you more options in terms of lending and migrating to a new console. Regarding your bank account, however, physical games that aren't brand new tend to receive sales and price reductions more quickly and more consistently.
Digital downloads, on the other hand, usually stay full price unless there's an upcoming sale centered around a theme (more on that later). And then there's the best part about owning a physical copy of a game...
3. Sell or trade in old games you no longer play
Retailers like Amazon, Best Buy and GameStop let you sell your old games for store credit or even cash. This is another argument for buying the physical product: You can't trade in a digital download.
You likely won't get anything close to the amount you paid for the game, but it'll help offset some of the cost. You can trade in your game right in the store or online. Amazon even conveniently lists games you've purchased from them in the past and lets you send them right back. If you get back around $20 or more for each game you trade-in — a pretty typical price for games that have come out in the past few months — whatever game you purchased each month could actually get you back $240 or more at the end of the year.
Want more cash for your games? Consider selling them on eBay, where you can sell to the highest bidder or set a fixed price. A used copy of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare for the PS4 recently sold for $21.50 on eBay, versus the $10 back that Best Buy offers. That's an extra $11.50 in your pocket — to put toward more games!
4. Always check deal sites
There is no shortage of sites that help you track deals. Reddit comes in handy when tracking cheap deals in the gaming world with subreddits like /r/PS4deals, /r/SteamDeals, /r/WiiUdeals and more. Outside of Reddit, sites like CheapAss Gamer, Green Man Gaming and Is There Any Deal are here to help with some sub-$60 games.
The sites tell you what games are on sale online at any given time. For example, Is There Any Deal lists all the places where you can buy Moto Racer 4 for up to 22% off.
And there are also initiatives like Humble Bundle, which lets you choose the amount you'll pay for certain games, then gives part of their profits to charity.
5. Rent, don't buy
Plan on skipping the whole purchase-just-to-resell routine altogether? You can simply rent titles. Services like GameFly let you borrow games for cheap — around $16 a month to rent one game at a time or just below $23 to take out two. Or there's Redbox, which charges $2 per day to rent games.
If you're looking for one new game each month, renting could have you spending only $24 to $276 per year — rather than the $576 you'd spend on new games using Amazon Prime or Best Buy's 20% discount.
Renting is the perfect choice if you're more attached to what's in your wallet than keeping the latest Zelda game for posterity.
Love gaming? Check out all of Mic's coverage on our Multiplayer channel. And for more ways to save money, sign up for the Payoff newsletter — your weekly crash course on how to live your best financial life. For all your burning money questions, check out Mic's credit, savings, career, investing and health care hubs for more information — that pays off.