Video Gaming On The Cheap

-Written by Cel

I’ve been an avid video gamer for about 20 years now. A lot of people think that gaming is an expensive hobby, particularly console or handheld gaming. It certainly can be; I have a friend who spends probably an average of $100 a month on games alone, not factoring in buying new systems. But it doesn’t have to be.

Here are some tips on how to acquire console/handheld games frugally, without piracy or only playing very old games (PC gamers: you’re on your own).

If you are a Playstation gamer, I highly recommend subscribing to Playstation Plus. It costs at most $50 per year, and there are frequent sales for $40 or even less – I picked up a 1-year subscription for $32.09 (tax included) during a Boxing Day sale. Americans had the same deal on Black Friday.  This gives you dozens of free games per year, from obscure indie games to popular, acclaimed retail titles like Borderlands 2, Sleeping Dogs, Spec Ops: The Line, Bioshock Infinite, etc.

Which brings me to my second point – sales of digital games. I make it a rule never to pay more than $30 for a digital game (Fire Emblem: Awakening being the lone exception to date). If you pay $60 for a digital game, you can never sell it, so the money is gone forever. If you must pay $60, buy a physical copy so you can re-sell it.

PSN in particular has very attractive sales – I’ve gotten Just Cause 2 for $7.50 (normally $20), Killzone: Mercenary for $9 (normally $30-$40), Warp for $2.50 (normally $10). I’ve seen Walking Dead: Season 1, Episodes 1-5 for $2.50. The discounts are better if you have Playstation Plus, but even without there is still opportunity for savings.

The Xbox marketplace also seems to have fairly good sales.  Unfortunately, the 3DS and Wii U e-shop is relatively poor in that regard, but discounts do still appear from time to time.

There are a variety of sources to find out about sales (digital and physical).  I follow “@GamedealsCanada” on twitter; Americans probably have an equivalent.  Also check the system-specific subreddits (r/ps3, r/vita, r/3ds) on Reddit, where users post deals frequently.  Also follow the Playstation Blog (or Xbox/Nintendo equivalent) which posts about weekly sales.

What if you don’t want to wait for a sale?  Say there’s a game you absolutely must have the day it comes out.  Even on Day 1, you can still save.

For example, I pre-ordered Borderlands 2 (PS3) from Futureshop.  They had a promotion where pre-ordered games were $10 off, so I paid $56 after tax for it.  I also got the steelbook case for pre-ordering, which I sold on Craigslist for $15.  After I played it for about two months, including purchasing a $10 DLC campaign, I sold it on Craigslist for $30.

Total cost for buying a big-name title on Day 1 – $21 ($11 without DLC).

In another case, I bought New Super Mario Bros 2 for $35 on Craigslist, two days after it came out.  I met the guy at my apartment, so it took less time than buying at the store, and I saved almost $10 just by waiting two days.

I never beat it, so I hung onto it for several months.  When Mario and Luigi: Dream Team came out, Futureshop had a promotion where you could trade one eligible game and get Dream Team for free right on release.  I traded NSMB2 for it.  I ended up not liking Dream Team, so two months later when Pokemon X/Y came out, I used another Futureshop Promotion and traded Dream Team for Pokemon X (also on release).   I played Pokemon X, then ended up selling it on eBay (at the end of December) for approximately $29 after fees and shipping.

Cost to play three big-name 3DS games on release – $6.

During Boxing Day 2012, I bought Sleeping Dogs and Max Payne 3 on PS3, for $22.39 each.  Sleeping Dogs was about 4 months old, and Max Payne was about 7 months old.  I ended up selling both of them on Craigslist after I was finished for $20 each – and I only sold Sleeping Dogs because it was free on PS+, so I still have access to it.

Cost to play each game – $2.39.

When  Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds came out, many people bought the e-shop version for $40.  However, the 3DS XL Zelda edition came with a code to download a digital copy of Link Between Worlds.  Those were being sold on eBay for $25-30 (Buy It Now), and some auctions were even cheaper.

Lastly, check your local library for free video games.  The Vancouver Public Library has a decent library of Wii, Wii U, PS3, and Xbox 360 video games (only E and T-rated, no M-rated games).  Two of them may be checked out at a time.

In summary:

1.  If you are a Playstation fan, buy Playstation Plus, preferably on sale.

2.  Buy games on sale whether you are buying digital or physical.

3. Buy games on Craigslist shortly (few days) after release, and save $10-15 compared to retail.

3. Sell used games on Craigslist – this can lower the cost of a game to $0-5 (on rare occasions, you may make money).

4. Take advantage of good store promotions for game trade-ins.

5. Check every source possible for the cheapest price, including non-obvious ones like eBay.

6. Borrow games for free from your local library (if possible).



  1. Just cause 2 for $7.50? How cute, I just picked up JC2 on Steam with the PC exclusive 3000 players on one server multiplayer for $3

    Borderlands and all its DLC for $20? Nice price, if I wanted that game I could pick it up right now on Steam for $7.49

  2. Okay then, let’s refute those points you made:

    1) Buying a yearly service to get games cheaper? Doesn’t that ruin the whole point of trying to save money if you’re buying something to save a small fraction of money?
    2) That’s a given, but consoles are known to generally not do this.
    3) Buying used games is not helping the developer, thus they make less money and are less inclined to make more of that type of game you want to support.
    4) So selling your game you paid $60 for to Gamestop for $15 back is a good idea now?
    5) Again with the used games argument, if you really want sales just use Steam…oh wait, that’s right, you restrict yourself to console gaming.
    6) Do libraries even have used games any more? I haven’t seen that in years.

    • 1. 1-year of PS+ costs $40-50, sometimes less – it was on sale for $30 this holiday season. That gives you literally dozens of games; one could buy nothing but PS+ and still play 4-5 games a month, or 2-3 if you didn’t own both a Vita and PS3. In addition, you also get bigger discounts on digital sales. Most people on gaming forums seem to praise the value of PS+. I haven’t seen many people claim it is a rip-off.

      2. Sales are relatively frequent in my experience, both for digital and physical.

      3. Buying used games gives money to the developer indirectly, as it helps to fuel sales of new copies. Less people would buy a new copy for $60 if they could not sell it. Also, the topic is about how to save money when acquiring games…not about how to support devs.

      4. Of course that is not a good idea – did you not see the paragraphs where I was talking about promotions that were a good deal? And where I said, take advantage of good promotions?

      5. The topic is about cheap console/handheld gaming. Most people know that Steam sales are quite cheap. I never said that console gaming was cheaper than PC gaming, so why are you bringing it up?

      6. My library has free video games, I am not sure how common it is. But it is worth looking into.

      All your points seem to be strawmen.

      • Did you honestly use Metacritic as a source of if a game is good or not? You do realize that a lot of critics can be bought out, right? See: Every CoD game other than Ghosts

        “The topic is simply about saving money on console/handheld gaming.” I’m pretty sure the title says otherwise. It says getting games for cheap, not console games. Console games are not cheap, and you keep telling others to sell their games so they can never play it again, and pay for a $50/year service (which, hilariously, for Xbone, is required if you want to fucking view Internet Explorer.) I’m just going off the title and the rest of the article having nothing to do with it.

    • Playstation + =/= getting free games, it’s paying to RENT the ability to PLAY ONLINE and TEMPORARILY get access to a game. The moment you stop paying for the service you permanently lose the ability to play the “free” games you got.That Left 4 Dead 2 example that Stachekip listed? We all got it for free, no strings attached, permanently for free without paying for a service.

      Also, just because a game is older doesn’t mean it’s all of a sudden worse than newer titles. I personally just hit 40 hours on Synergy mod, and that’s for a game from 2004, and it’s more fun than most “modern” AAA titles. The three games you are bragging that you are able to play are average at best (that were also on sale for over a half off each on Steam just last week where you keep it permanently, along with MANY games for 75%.) Also, that Brothers game looks like a horrible game, I checked the Steam page and it requires a controller to play? On the UNREAL ENGINE? An engine made mostly for shooters? [Ugh, bad console ports. Maybe you SHOULD buy your games used, these guys don’t deserve money if they pull shit like this]

      All I’m saying is I’d rather use a free service where games go 50-75% off after less than a year of them being out, than pay $50 a year (REQUIRED on PS4 and Xbone to PLAY ONLINE, ON TOP OF whatever you pay your ISP) to rent a game. These comments are people who ACTUALLY want to save gamers money, not tell them to pay for the ability to play online.

      Something I didn’t mention in the other post, why are console gamers so happy about buying Just Cause 2 anyway? The console version doesn’t even have the multiplayer mod.

      • Online play is free for the PS3 and Vita.

        Newer games are not necessarily better than older games, but they are more valuable. People are more excited about getting games less than a year old than 4+ year old games.

        Bioshock Infinite, DMC and Brothers were all well-reviewed, 85-92% on gamerankings. It is laughable that you would call all three average.

        It seems pretty sad that PC gamers feel the need to claim that console gaming is inferior. No one said that PC gaming was worse or more expensive than console gaming.

        The topic is simply about saving money on console/handheld gaming. If you are not interested in the topic, then leave.

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