Nick's Gaming Blog

Gaming on a Budget

Some people are rich.  These people have enough money to buy mansions, boats that aren’t pronounced at all like they look on paper (like yachts) and sometimes other people.  These are also the sort of people that can afford to buy two of every video game that interests them, and preserve one of them for all eternity in shrink wrap, the Microsoft Seal of Quality unbroken.

This is, in fact, what one is required by law to do when they make a fair amount of cash.

Do a vast majority of gamers find themselves in an unrelenting downpour of money (also known as “making it rain”)?  I doubt it.  Now, it’s true, the average “gamer” is somewhere in his mid to late 30′s, and based on that fact alone one would argue that they’ve got more disposable income than the nine-year-old or the retired eighty-nine-year-old.  However, take into account that your mid-thirties gamer also likely just acquired a house, a wife, and possibly a kid (or two, if he really fucked things up), and he’s probably not doing very much to reinforce this moniker of “gamer.”

What I’m getting at is that the average “hardcore” gamer has that extra time to game (whether or not he should be spending it in such a manner is debatable), and is probably in high school or college…neither of which is a bastion for accruing wealth.   Unsurprisingly, a fair amount of gamers find themselves at a loss of what to do when juxtaposing the Hamilton and several quarters in their pocket with the sixty dollar price levied on (most) new next-gen titles.  With that in mind, I figured (especially given my own paltry economic standing) that it was time to discuss options to get the most out of one’s gaming.  Some of them involve at least a minute amount of cash, while the remainder won’t require reaching into that gaping void that is your wallet/purse/manpurse/left shoe…or if you’re a hipster (or an octogenarian) a money clip.

Tip #1–Get Xbox Live/Use PSN/Realize that the Wii “ain’t that gud” when it comes to online gaming

Yes, it’s true, this might be bass ackwards (which is both a turn of phrase and a rather endangered species of fish) notion for those of you who do most of your leveling and fragging in the online realm anyway.  Yet for some of us, “multiplayer” and “online mode” is something that follows the campaign of a game…if it follows it at all.  Now, some of you aren’t “social” gamers or are leery of subscribing to the relentlessly competitive nature that is Western online gaming.  That’s perfectly fine, as it’s not for everyone…and the fact that Japan has bought roughly as many copies of Halo as there are surviving Spartans speaks to this.  In fact, I’m probably right there with you: the only person I’m “finishing this fight” with is myself.

While it's certainly true that Halo isn't the only game to play on Xbox is one of the better ones.

That sounded wrong.  May the Master Chief forgive me.

Anyway, even if you’re on the fence about online gaming, but you’re more than aware that you need to get your “fix” on the cheap, LIVE or PSN can throw a fairly affordable lifeline to your “finished” games.  If even the entry fee to get your feet wet frightens you, keep your eye on online and retail deals on these services.  Every couple months, LIVE will offer up a free weekend of GOLD to all members, and if you can’t wait for that (or don’t know when the next one will be) scan through your games that you own for passes for two or three days of LIVE for free.  Also, for those genuinely interested in this tactic, check your Microsoft published titles first, as Bill Gates is more willing to put these “golden tickets of team killing and hate speech” in first-party titles.

It is undeniable that certain titles have better multiplayer experiences than others, and it would be wise to investigate this…at least before making an extended commitment to an online service.  After all, if you’ve got older titles, there’s a chance that the online modes no longer function.  Alternately, it’s possible that either A. Nobody plays the game anymore and the community is small or B. All that remains is a hardcore band of addicts to said title who won’t hesitate to tear you a new one if you infringe on their hang-out.

Bioshock 2 is a perfect example of a game with a good multiplayer aspect, but lacking the large scale community that other games possess.

To summarize, online gaming is an option if you’ve got a cheap mode of entry to a service, and games that are well-suited for online play.  While one’s taste in multiplayer modes is subjective (as it is for games on the whole) there are several franchises that offer great gameplay, active support, as well as constant additions of new maps/levels/modes/skins for the community.  For Xbox, the big three are CoD, Halo, and Gears…though you might find a couple people that will argue on this.  Some of those Forza people are argumentative folk.  Finally, online mode also offers up overall opportunities that cannot be accessed by playing the single player mode…and this brings us to point 2.

Tip #2–Ever thought of upping that Gamerscore/Trophy Collection?

Go ahead, make all the e-peen jokes you’ve heard.  Mutter how it’s a psychological attempt to affirm your expenditures of time and money you’ve shamelessly poured into the coffers of whatever gaming poison you prefer.  Take a few minutes to remark to your friend how never have people spent so much time on something that means so little (or, depending on who you ask, means nothing).

I saw it, and liked it. There's no other reason behind picking this one.

You done?  Look, people who game in an ongoing attempt to raise their e-peen to “full mast” playing terrible games or playing good games strictly with the mindset of upping their tally…those people suck.  But there is something to be said for the Achievement/Trophy system’s ability to add replay value to a game, sometimes even challenge you to approach the game with a different lens.

See, some games (especially lower-budget and early titles from 2005-2007) handle this business better than others: some offer actually difficult achievements, present the gamer with creative challenges or, at the very least, have a nice aesthetic to their “achievement badges.”  On that note: if you make all your achievements the same icon…you suck.

And yes.  I am talking to you, Prince of Persia (’08 reboot) and The Forgotten Sands.

Oh Borderlands. A "timesink" if there ever was one.

One only has to look at “One Free Bullet” achievement from Half Life 2, which forces you to beat the game firing only one round or Borderlands “My Brother was an Italian Plumber,” which forces you to kill an enemy by jumping on it, to see that some developers are taking the time to design challenging/funny/interesting achievements.  Yeah, it’s essentially a slightly grown-up “take” on merit badges one earned as a Scout, but just like the aforementioned tokens, there are Achievements that really demand respect from other gamers…that, reaffirm your gaming addiction for the whole world to see.

If anything, Achievements (and that’s an entire topic onto itself) prove that you’ve done what you’ve boasted…and enable you to discover whether or not your friend was talking shit about beating Call of Duty: Black Ops on Veteran.  They encourage you to try your games on different difficulty levels, play through as different characters, and adopt play styles outside that of your own.  They push “online gamers” to actually try the campaign, and for “anti-social” players to have bastards around the world call them names and kill them in dishonest ways.  I’m kidding about the last one…well, partially.  Bottom line: Achievements are a very easy and free way to extend the life of your games and if you couple this stratagem with an online gaming provider (depending on the game in question) you’ll reap the benefits even more.

Tip #3–Don’t Buy At Launch

I didn’t think I’d really have to vocalize this common-sensical approach to game purchasing, but you’d be surprised how many people aren’t aware that video game prices frequently drop…sometimes even a remarkable 20-30 dollars at a time!  Unlike movie tickets, CDs, and DVDS, the entry level price for a game at launch is massive: sixty dollars.  The closest thing is what, a DVD at maybe eighteen or nineteen dollars? In fact, it’s generally massively cheaper to buy other mediums atlaunch.  I’m not certain why, but I think it has something to do with the importance of albums selling well in their first few weeks on the charts; most music CDs are twenty-five to thirty percent off in their opening week.  From there, you’ll be hard-pressed to see even five dollars off that same CD for another year or so…after all, that’s likely forty to fifty percent of the total cost.

After buying a couple titles of "questionable" quality at launch, one is generally curbed of the habit. Alone in the Dark failing to look this cool was probably the last straw for me.

Confused?  Well, I don’t know a lot about economics, but I can tell you this: electronic mediums that start at a much lower price have less of an incentive to make price drops.  Especially because a large amount of their sales are at launch anyway.  Why?  Well, with low prices, people are much more willing to simply buy something at the outset, rather than wait for online reviews or other criticism of the product.  There’s a reason you hear more about people seeing bad movies than you do playing bad games…at least, this is true from my experience.

That being said, because of the lofty entry price for gaming software (and the fact that many that belong to the “hardcore gaming” demographic lack a large amount of disposable income) many gamers do depend on word of mouth, online reviews, and programs like G4′s X-Play to provide them with the low-down on the game in question.  So if a game doesn’t really catch on at the outset, there’s frequently a push to accelerate sales…generally via a ten or twenty dollar price cut.  Alternatively, if a game does catch on like wildfire (aside from the third-degree burns and devastation) then it’s likely to become a “Greatest Hit” or “Platinum Hit” or whatever moniker your console manufacturer has selected, and this will drop the price too.  Unless we’re talking about a so-so title that neither shines nor bombs, most games will inevitably see a significant price drop.  Oftentimes playing the waiting game benefits the gamer in other ways: DLC-laden titles will often release a “Game of the Year” edition with all the title’s respective content at the price other gamers paid for the title alone months before.  Ultimately, it just comes down to how much you can wait, and this usually hinges on the probability of your friends ruining the title for you.

So, yeah, there’s a handful of tips for you: try/buy an online gaming service, utilize achievements to get more mileage out of the games you already own, and be aware that video game prices hop all over the place, and paying close attention to weekly deals (both retail and online) will likely net (possibly) massive savings.




1 Comment

    Finally, another post !

    Great work and good points !

    Back in the day (2004/05/06), was a great source of deals for me. I just looked at it and I can’t believe the site is still up and looks strong.

    Another point is that the price drops occur more for time-sensitive games like sports games which are released every year (the Madden, NBA 2K franchises), although by playing the cheaper games, the rosters (which players are with what teams – I encourage to gently berate my incorrect grammar and correct me in that earlier sentence fragment) are not current.

    Also, have you ever found gamefly (video games with a netflix model) to be worth the money ? I used very briefly when it first started and didn’t care for it because I didn’t play enough to be worth the cost. At the time, it would be the same or more cost to use the service and play through just a game or 2 a month (which have no replay value and/or are relatively cheap because they had been released >6months ) than purchasing the game new or used and reselling them.

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