My kids are big fans of the LEGO Xbox
games: LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Harry Potter, and so on. (Truth be told, I like them, too: They're funny, fiendishly clever, and admirably non-violent
This spring witnessed the arrival of two new titles in the series: LEGO Star Wars III and Lego Pirates of the Caribbean. List price for both? An allowance-busting $49.99. Sorry, kids, but in my day we dropped a quarter in a slot and liked it. No way am I paying 50 bucks each for a pair of video games.
Fortunately, I don't have to. I've learned the tricks of the cheap-gaming trade, and I hereby pass them on to anyone else who blanches at the thought of spending $50-60 per game.
Try Before You Buy
Not every game is as great as it looks. (Exhibit A: Duke Nukem Forever
.) And when you come to the realization that you've just wasted a big chunk of hard-earned cash on a disappointing game, that's some serious buyer's remorse.
To avoid this kind of thing, try before you buy: download the demo. The PlayStation
Store and Xbox Live Marketplace are home to hundreds of games you can test-drive, playing either the first few levels or a time-limited version of the full game. It should be enough of a taste to let you know if the real deal is worth your money. Demos are free, and you can download as many as you have room for on your console's hard drive or memory unit.
owners are out of luck--sort of. Although the Wii Shop Channel offers demos for a handful of WiiWare titles, you'll have to try my next tip if you want to try commercial games before buying.
Let's face it: most video games get boring after a while. In fact, if it's the kind of game you can "finish" (meaning you rescued the princess or saved the world
), you might play it once and never touch it again. That's why I'm a big fan of renting, which lets you play a game hot and heavy for a week or two, then return it when you're done--all for a lot less than the price of buying it new.
You have a few options when it comes to renting. First, if you still have a video store in your neighborhood, it may offer game rentals. (Blockbuster definitely does; it's arguably the single best local source for games
Second, you know those Redbox movie-rental kiosks
? They're now offering video games as well. The rates are a bit steep at $2 per day, but if you're just looking to try a game before buying it (or you just want, say, a dance game for the party you're throwing
), this might prove mighty convenient.
Finally, consider the Netflix
approach to video games. Services like GameFly
will mail you one or more games from your queue, let you keep them as long as you want, then mail them back when you're ready for your next game(s)--all for a flat monthly rate. (GameFly plans start at $7.95; the service carries games for all the major consoles, including portable ones like the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP
Patience is a virtue--especially for gamers. Instead of buying a new title the day it's released, buy last year's hot game. See, while it's rare to find savings on new stuff, games that have been out for at least a year often sell for half the original price--sometimes even less.
For example, Mass Effect 2
for Xbox 360, which debuted to much critical acclaim in January, 2010, originally sold for $59.99. You can now find it at retail stores like Target
for just $24.99. And LEGO Harry Potter
, last year's hot LEGO title, is now down to $28.25 at Amazo
n--a much easier price to swallow than $49.99.
The longer you can wait for a game, the cheaper it'll be. It may be hard to wait, but your wallet will thank you. (And if you're married to a non-gamer, your spouse will, too
Self-proclaimed cheapskate Rick Broida has been a technology writer for
over 20 years. He has authored over a dozen books, including, most recently,
"How to Do Everything: Palm Pre." Currently he writes the Cheapskate blog.