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The Miser’s Guide to Gaming On A Budget

The Miser’s Guide to Gaming On A Budget

How to save money

Mark Raymond offers sagely advice as to how to afford the games you want on a budget.

GIVEN THAT this is the season for a ridiculous number of video games to come out all at once, and because it’s coming up to Christmas, I’ve decided to write this article, detailing what I consider to be the best method of a) playing as many games as possible and b) as cheaply as possible.

It has taken years of painstaking research, of travelling across vast seas to the furthest of lands, congressing with the wisest of sages, but I have uncovered the formula, which I will reveal to you now – and there are only three simple steps:

Is she a keeper or one-night stand?

First of all, I want you to look at the release schedule for the next few months and pick out the games you might be interested in. This can be a broad selection, so don’t feel you have to be choosy at this stage. Just pick ‘em out; write ‘em down.

Okay, so you have your list. Out of these games, I now want you to make an educated guess, based on what you’ve seen and heard from previews, word of mouth, demos and reviews (if it’s close to that point) of whether you think you’ll be wanting to continue playing that game after a month or over three months time. The criteria you can use for this part is manifold, but for me it comes down to three things in general:

The general quality of a game – I have high standards, so for me it has to be in the class of a Mass Effect 2, Modern Warfare or Bayonetta.

The reported length or longevity of the gameplay experience – also, for a game I feel I want to take my time over and not feel rushed, I put into the long-term bracket.

The potential for DLC further down the line and whether it has multiplayer – the latter depending on if it’s any good and whether I think a long-term community will form around it.

Essentially, games that are short in length and acquire middling reviews probably aren’t worth buying, in my opinion, but they may be worth playing. Hence, they go into the “games you want to have a good time with but wouldn’t necessarily bring home to meet your mum” camp. They’ve failed the purchase test.

In which case, the prescribed action to take would be to set up an account with a video game rental service such as LOVEFiLM, Boomerang or SwapGame, and add these titles to your rental list. I can’t speak as to the quality of Boomerang and SwapGame (no problems here with either – Ed.), but LOVEFiLM are fairly reliable, cheap and offer a wide range of both video games and DVDs/Blu-rays to choose from. I personally recommend them.

One thing to remember, though: if you’re holding onto a game for months on end through a rental service, you are ultimately losing money. The limit, I think, should be around three months. I’d even go so far as to say if you’re going over a month you may as well send the game back and buy it at a later date.

Excellent. So, using a process of elimination you should now have a second set of games that you’ve decided are worthy of purchase, leading onto the next step.

Buy! Buy! Buy!

When purchasing games you have to think like a stock broker. What’s the market like? How have the prices of similar products fared within the same field? Will a GOTY edition raise its head at some point in the future? (Probably not what a broker asks themselves, but you get the point.)

Not surprisingly, making the smart move is about knowledge and timing, to know when to hold’em and when to fold’em. Over the years, I’ve picked up on what some of the trends are around video game e-tailer pricing:

Most games shed their initial value very quickly – it can be a month after release, but usually it’s three months and sometimes, on the outside, six.

When they do drop in price, most games stick around at a £15-17 price point, and any further cuts tend to be incremental after that and not worth waiting for.

Why this happens, I don’t know exactly. My pet explanation for this is that it’s mainly down to it being a massively competitive marketplace with too many AAA titles launching within reach of each other. Great for the consumer; bad for the industry, probably. But hey, that’s not our problem.

What this means is that a game launching at £39.99 can drop to £25 or even sub-£20 three months or perhaps even one month after release (in special cases). The only exceptions to this rule tend to be those games I’d classify as occupying within “super-franchises” – such as Halo, StarCraft and Call of Duty – but they still have to be bringing in the megabucks.


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    I did some analysis on this a while ago. You can find a few examples of it at http://biggamehunter.100webspace.net/Analysis1.htm. You can see that prices to not ’stick’ at £15-17 (except in high street stores). On Ebay they continue to fall smoothly with age, although the rate at which they fall depends heavily on the ‘quality’ and ‘uniqueness’ of the game. For instance the annual FIFA or ProEvo will lose value rapidly while ‘Shadow of the Colossus’ or ‘Viva Pinata’ will retain its value well. Since there is a predictable decay pattern for prices it is possible to see how each game performs relative to this. As you would expect the large franchise games do tend well but not always, and there are also plenty of examples of ‘cult’ games that tend to hold value.

  • That’s very interesting DrEru. I looked for some hard data to support my anecdotally-spurred theory, but I couldn’t find much. As you say, the prices may continue to fall with age on Ebay but that it might not apply to e-tailers. I would really love to get a hold of numbers relating to the latter.

  • I have a considerable amount of data on Ebay sales but none on retailers. I do not consider the retailers numbers to be that informative as they do not represent the workings of a free market (in the sense that Ebay does). The price may be influenced by stock levels, the financial position of the retailer, the retailer customer profile and so on. For instance supermarkets routinely overprice games as the buyers will not tend to be the gamers themselves but their parents etc. I believe that whatever useful information on true demand for games that can be gleaned from retailers pricing policy derives ultimately from the second hand market (like Ebay) anyway, but Ebay is a much richer and robust source of this information.

  • a good option is to also look at any game which you like the look of but you know won’t be mainstream and sell much, in these cases you can get a fairly new game for less than you may have expected. Generally if a game really doesn’t sell well then it can take less than a month for them to drop below £20, which could be seen as quite a bargain. i remember buying games like bayonetta, blazblue and madworld, all for less than £10 within 6 weeks of the game coming out, not because they are bad games, just because they didn’t sell very well at all.

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