Gaming as a hobby has become irrevocably entwined with our culture over the last 30 years. Growing up in the 80’s(‘Sup Gen Xers!), gaming became my favorite thing to do when I wasn’t outside digging holes to China.
Back then I relied on my parents ability to provide gaming content to me in a timely fashion. This translated to getting a new game or two on birthdays and Christmas.
Our family had an Atari 2600 and eventually graduated to a Nintendo entertainment system in 1986, and this is where the addiction took hold fully. There is something so magical about being able to control a character in another world versus just watching your entertainment.
I became infatuated with gaming.
Fast forward to right now, and in this moment I am struggling to overcome debt and hustling my butt off to make a better life. How does gaming fit into this world?
Quite frankly, it doesn’t. Not unless i can make it fit into the tiniest budget I’ve ever given my hobby.
That is where this post comes in and saves the day. I have managed to make gaming not only fit into my budget, but have more games than I know what to do with!
Gaming Is Expensive
Modern video game titles by the biggest publishers are given a retail price of $60 USD. This is an absurd amount of money.
While I am 100% in favor of the creators being paid for their hard work, a piece of entertainment shouldn’t cost $60. There are so many moving parts that go into making a modern game that most of this money is put to good use. What you get on the screen is light years ahead of my Nintendo Entertainment System from ‘86.
Of course, it could be the most beautiful, most fun, and most amazing experience of all time, but I got bills to pay.
This means I have to limit my gaming budget to way less than $60 per game. As a matter of fact, my gaming budget hovers right around $60 per YEAR.
You question my sanity(I do too), but I’ll break down how I make that happen below.
Free To Play
Fortnite has taken over the world, and I don’t just mean the gaming world. It is also one of the most profitable gaming franchises, period.
It is also “Free To Play”.
This means that you can download the game and immediately start playing at no cost to you. Fortnite does have two game modes and the Battle Royale version is the free to play one.
In this day and age, you can download the most popular game in the world and play it without spending a dime.
But, how is the game one of the most profitable? The business model of the game involves selling skins, dances, emotes, and other accoutrement that has no bearing on the gameplay itself. These upgrades are purely cosmetic.
As of this writing I have played 60 hours of Fortnite and spent literally zero dollars on the game itself.
There are a lot of games that use this business model and is a great way for you find something to play for little to no money at all.
Here are some more examples of free to play games:
This is a new way of doing business and the gaming companies are jumping in with both feet. You can too, just don’t fall for the cosmetic chicanery and you’ll have many hours of gaming goodness.
Sales As A Rule
You may not get your gaming fill from free to play titles alone, so what should you do? You should buy everything on sale of course!
This seems to be counter to what gamers are hardwired to think. Gaming is predicated on building up excitement to frothing levels that boil over exactly at midnight on the day of release.
I’ve been there folks. I stood in line at midnight to get my copy of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
Over the years since, I have felt that excitement, but no longer act on said froth. Games go on sale way too quickly after release to spend full price on something purely on hype.
Even if it is the best game you’ve ever played in your entire life, no hyperbole, it still will be three months later when it costs $30 or less.
Don’t take this as a lack of support for the developers, but do take it as the same approach we take to anything that costs money, we want it for less.
Looking back over my lifetime, I have spent(on credit) way too much on gaming and video game systems. Learn from my mistakes and ignore the hype for just a little while.
One bonus to waiting, is that as the hype cools, cooler heads prevail with more nuanced critiques of these games. You will have a better understanding of whether this game was meant for you at all.
Read reviews, find deals, profit(or spend less).
Where To Find Deals
Now that you know to look for sales and deals, where should you look?
Start with deal websites like Cheap Ass Gamer, where the community scours the internet for the best deals on gaming every single day.
As the name implies, they are very astute when it comes to finding games on the cheap.
Another area you should be perusing is on whatever console or computer storefront you use regularly.
All of them, Microsoft, Sony, Steam, have deals on a semi regular basis. The console manufacturers usually have them weekly. With a little patience you can find the game you’ve had your eye on for way less money.
Retailers will do the same exact thing. Every week stuff goes on sale to motivate your sorry ass to shop. Pay close attention and you’ll save some cash.
Being completely honest, I don’t recommend buying used games. Purely on principle, I think the developers deserve the money more than the retailers do.
However, if you don’t have an aversion to buying and selling used games, then go right ahead. I don’t think it’s wrong, just not my personal cup of tea.
These are just the tip of the iceberg. Let us know in the comments below if you have a preferred way to find your gaming deals.
Playing The System For Free
A couple years ago, Microsoft hit upon a new idea for video games that just may revolutionize the way we consume our games.
Game Pass is like the Netflix of gaming, where Microsoft populates well over 100 games into a downloadable service for 10 bucks a month.
The revolving game lineup operates just like Netflix where titles will come and go month to month, but Microsoft’s first party offerings are there permanently.
Microsoft has committed to launching every one of those first party title day and date on the service. For ten bucks a month. Let that sink in.
Instead of buying games at $60 you can have a treasure trove of games for $120 or less per year. That is pretty awesome.
What is even better, is that I get Game Pass for free. 100% free and clear.
After you pick your jaw up off the floor, I’ll explain.
As a Bing rewards member, by doing all my internet searches through Bing, I can pick from a lot of the rewards on offer.
Game Pass just so happens to be one of those rewards. I can choose from a one month or three month subscription, just because I do my searches through Bing.
Right now my membership will be coming due at the end of the month, but I have enough banked points for 3 more months of subscription. I am always far enough ahead to keep it free.
Now that is lit, as the kids say.
Be Cheap And Unashamed
Hobbies are meant to be enjoyed, but don’t let them creep into your financial life and ruin the hard work you put in. Save as many dollars as you can and play games at the same time.
If you buy everything the day it comes out, this goes for any industry, you are wasting money that could be saved or invested.
Patience will get you closer to your financial goals. Being able to play the latest games can be exciting and fun in its own right, but these same games will be amazing a few months later too.
If you want a metric ton of games for less, get Game Pass on your Xbox or PC for a strong selection of games at a fraction of what they would cost normally.
How do you save money on gaming? What are some of your favorite video games? We would love to hear from you!
Go Forth And Play!
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Don’t forget League of Legends on the free to play games- very similar to Dota 2….
Though i’ll admit to having spent hundreds of dollars on that game before I figured out that I need to figure out my finances 🙂
I might need to give fortnight another look!
Hey Daniel! I did leave out League of Legends, good catch. We also didn’t even broach the subject of mobile gaming. Fortnite is a great game, but with my Game Pass subscription, I have been all over Sea of Thieves lately!
Good article on low-budget gaming options, although I have to take some issue with your formulation of $60 being absurd. I usually look at games on a cost-per-hour basis. If I play a game for 10 hours, I’m paying $6/hour for entertainment. If I play 120 hours in Skyrim that I pay $60 for, then I’m paying 50 cents/hour for entertainment. Think of what you pay for a movie, say $10 for a movie ticket to a 2-hour movie, that’s $5/hour for entertainment. I remember when $40-$50 was the norm, but that was almost 20 years ago. Heck, Nintendo games used to cost $50, even the ones you could beat in a weekend. Game prices are definitely not keeping up with inflation or the absurd development costs. Anyway, I’d suggest two things:
1. Never pre-order
2. Wait for reviews (and pay what your cost-per-hour would be worth)
Thanks for the kind words Daniel! I agree with the way you look at value, however video games drop in price so fast, that they are almost never worth buying at $60. I actually remember a time when games were $50-80 depending on the cartridge size. This meant that we rented a ton more games than we bought. Imagine going to your local Blockbuster store, renting a game for $8 for the week and getting 20 hours of entertainment.
I use Microsoft points the company gives me for using bing. I redeem the points for Xbox live subscriptions and they give you free games. Also humble bundle and GOG give away free games on a regular basis. Haven’t actually used my own money to buy a game in years.
Very good points! Gaming is possible on a tiny budget and the options are increasing every year. Thanks for reading!
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Very good and refreshing post 🙂
I’ve no idea if you like this kind of game. But I have been playing Path of Exile for free for many years now!
After paying for almost 10 years of World Of Warcraft subscription, I have now been able to play for free! That’s awesome 🙂
Yes! I did play Path of Exile for awhile, it has a Diablo-like feel to it. There is so much content in there!