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Saving money is one of the hardest things to do – period. It requires tons of time, effort, and sometimes painstaking research to skim a few bucks off of your daily expenses.

But it certainly isn’t impossible, especially in the gaming realm, where technology and sales go hand in hand. Feel free to jump into my (hopefully) helpful guide below, and save a few bucks in the process. Warning: it’s pretty lengthy, so grab a discount Sam’s Club soda and relax.

Comparison Shop, Comparison Shop, Comparison Shop

Even though shopping at a retail location that doesn’t have some sort of store credit requires you to use real money, make sure you comparison shop on every outlet you can – Amazon, Gamestop, Goozex, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, iTunes, Steam, Cash Converters (thanks Funk) - anything. In fact, if I had one rule of thumb for all consumers in any potential market, it would be “research  before you buy – then research some more”.

How many times have you heard “I JUST bought this, and ‘X’ store has it for $20 cheaper!” I think at any given point in time, Amazon has offered free same day shipping on a particular game, or any number of those other retailers have given a unique $5 gift certificate with a purchase. Read your Sunday ads before you head out on Tuesday to buy your game of choice.

Unfortunately for you, IP owners are now making it harder and harder to get your money back, in the form of digital distribution, and those two cringe inducing words printed on every Steam and iTunes EULA/TOS you sign – “no refunds”.

If you can, try and stick with physical media to prevent this from happening – but don’t forget to attempt to embrace the digital age, because it is coming, and you can find superior deals – especially on Steam.

Use all the tools you can

Cheap Ass Gamer’s Trade in Value aggregator is pretty much the best thing ever. If you’re shopping around the trade-in market, you can easily pop all your games in, and get a running total of what your collection is worth. But the vast utility of the internet doesn’t stop there. You can also employ:

Good old fashioned Gamestop price check cold calling

Said CAG Trade In Value Tracker

Gamestop’s Trade-In deal listing

Online Coupon Code Services (think Amazon and Goozex)

Best Buy Price Matching

Forum Threads like this Steam Deal post

Dale [Deal] North of Destructoid Fame is one of the biggest Deal Hounds on the planet – follow him

Microsoft’s conveniently labeled Xbox Live Deal of the Week

An attempt to wade through the PSN Blog’s heap of posts to find a deal in there somewhere at some point when they feel like posting it

Amazon’s Deal of the Day, which is frequently a video game

Amazon’s Game Deal of the Day, which is always a video game [Thanks Qalamari!]

Woot.com, which on occasion can suit your gaming needs

GameDealDaily is like Woot, but just games [thanks Ashley!]

SlickDeals [Thanks Jamie!]

Think about registering for Goozex

No, it’s not a scam; it actually works! Goozex is a mediated game trading hub, that gives you “points” for your games. With the company guarantee (provided you use delivery confirmation), you will get your money back if someone tries to scam you – Goozex can check and see if the item was delivered, and, if need be, the game must be shipped to them for testing if the buyer is claiming the disc is scratched beyond repair.

It’s completely free to register, and sometimes the deals you find can’t be beat anywhere else. I would advise you to sign up, and trade the first new release you get bored of on Goozex. You’ll receive 1000 points (don’t try to equate them to other forms of currency, but if you have to, 1000 points is around a $60 game) for potential trades.  Just by doing a quick comparison shop, I see:

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops on Amazon for $18 used

and

Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops on Goozex for 100 points, used

When you think about the fact that you could get 10 copies of Portable Ops through Goozex for a $60 game trade (which is essentially worth $200 in total): that’s a pretty sweet deal. While you might have to wait a few months to creep up on the top spot, as long as you’re willing to play the waiting game, you can save hundreds of dollars a year through this method.

Another Goozex strategy is “flipping” – that is, buying a game during Amazon’s insane half off a brand new game sales, and trading it on Goozex for 1000 points. Community members are usually really open about posting these deals, and if you become a swarthy enough bargain hunter, you can do the posting.

Here’s another huge tip – say you really want Red Dead Redemption, but don’t want to pay $60, or anywhere close to that. Just log onto Goozex.com, and immediately place the game on your “hold queue”. It will save your place in the waiting list, and three to four months down the line, when the Goozex point value drops to $30 or so, you can just make your choice active, and reap the benefits. A lot of Goozex members actually have all 100 hold spots filled, so make use of it!

As you can see I could talk about Goozex all day, so if you have any questions, post them below.

Your love/hate relationship with iTunes? Get over it

I’ll be the first to admit: I hated iTunes with a passion. While I was still going out to my local record store and buying the latest power metal CDs, teeny boppers were bragging about how cool it was to buy DRM-infused albums over the internet.

Well, now iTunes is much bigger than that. It has a vast library of $0.99 games that push 10-20 hour playthroughs. It has at least 10-20 daily free game sales. But most importantly: you can easily take advantage of all this.

Are you a He-Man Apple product hater? Well, you might cave in the future, so why not use and abuse Apple’s open marketplace while you can?  Download iTunes, make an account, and just pick up these free games now. Maybe you’ll get an iPod Touch for Christmas: well, now you’ll have a myriad of free games to try out on it! Beat that Xbox Live, PSN, and WiiWare!

Pro-tip #1 – GET BARGAIN BIN – it’s a free version of AppSniper, with Push Notifications – in a nutshell, it updates you with every free/reduced price App daily

Scour FreeAppADay for the latest big promotion

Follow AppToday on Twitter and scour their free app list updated daily

Check out gaming blogs for updates on major free games (see what I did there?)

Consider Gamestop an option

I’ve seen Gamestop demonized way too many times in both the media and consumer realms – sometimes for good reason, but mostly because they had one bad experience with a snooty manager, which could happen anywhere.

Did you know that during their “extra 50% trade in value” promotion, Gamestop actually gave you $55 store credit for Mass Effect 2? Keep in mind this promotion lasted at least three weeks after the release of ME: 2, which was plenty of time to beat it twice as both Renegade and Paragon, claim your Cerberus Network Code, and return it for pretty much what you paid for it.

Make sure you take notes where I said “redeem your Cerberus Network Code”. A handful of publishers (and recently, EA) have rolled out an initiative called “Project Ten Dollar”: an idea that essentially withholds $10 worth of content from you unless you buy the game new. A good way to get around this would be to buy the game, redeem the code for future use, trade it in (make sure you get a good deal – ie the $55 from Gamestop), then pick it back up at a later date, “Ten Dollar” code intact.

On occasion, like in the case of Dragon Age, new copies will actually provide you with $15 worth of content, netting you an even bigger savings. In fact, the new Madden is actually going to require you to have an “Online Play” license that is only free with new copies of the game.

But no matter how much Gamestop can pull through, sometimes, you’re going to get chumped. You’ll get a game for a Birthday gift, hate it, then go to Gamestop and want to slap the manager across the face for offering you $20 for your brand new unplayed copy of something that just came out that day. But that’s just business, and you don’t have to hate Gamestop for it – just leave, Goozex it, sell it on Half.com or Ebay, look for a trading forum – anything. Just don’t count out Gamestop forever – you may have already missed out on a few good deals because of it.

You never want to completely axe out a potential buyer just because you had a few bad experiences. As long as Gamestop isn’t holding a gun to your head and forcing you to accept pennies for your game, everything will be ok.

Make sure you join Gamestop’s email list! You’ll only get one email a week, and you’ll receive tons of coupons – for instance, I’ve gotten some exclusive 50% extra trade-in value vouchers that have made a few of my games worth $50.

GameFly isn’t just a rental outlet  [Thanks Chris M, and James M!]

This guide is mainly meant for purchasing games, but even with the rental service GameFly, there is a viable ownership option. While it may not be quite as exciting as the guy in the picture would make it seem, GameFly is extremely tempting if you want to “own” a game (also known as never returning it) for $16 or $23 a month (for one or two games, respectively).

Once you get your grubby mitts on the two game plan, you can either keep one of them indefinitely (which works wonders with long legged multiplayer shooters), or purchase them at a discounted price, at which point GameFly will ship you the manual and case free of charge.

Well, that’s it for now folks – if I had any last words for you, it would be “always call your local 7-11, because they have no conception of what a street date is, and some of them do sell games”. Do you have any money saving tips to share below? Feel free to type away.

[I will update this page as more tips swing my way]

  1. Register for a Gamefly account. You can rent as many games as you want for as long as you want for $8.95 for your first month and then $14.95 after your first month for one game at a time. When you are done with the game you can send it back and they will send you a new game on your list.

  2. The indie market is a great avenue to get quality games for cheap. Most are digital releases (PC, XBLA or XBLI, WiiWare) but there are some that get put on physical mediums too (Deadly Premonition). And a lot of good sales happen on places like Steam, XBLA, and PSN on a regular basis too.

    Overlooking these sorts of games just reinforces the industries mindset that to sell, you have to take the chance on a AAA game.

  3. I know this doesn’t let you “own” the games, but GameFly has probably saved me well over $2000 on games I know I would never touch again over the past 2 and a half years. And the best thing about it? You have the option to “keep” every game you have out, and even on games that came out less than three days ago, you’ll get it for around 43-47 dollars, an essentially brand new game if it came out within a week of your receiving it. They send you the case and manual, all with free shipping. I live by GameFly, and now only buys games that I know will get extensive DLC, take me longer than 30 or 40 hours, or that high replayability value.

    $24/mo gets you two games, and it really can’t be beat.

  4. This was comprehensive as hell, love it!

    I take advantage of GameFly too, but I still need to get with the program and check out Goozex as well. Nothing beats finding that used copy of Okami or Psychonauts at the bottom of a $3 pile of games, though!

  5. avatar Mark Steinburg

    Also… check Gamerdeals.net…

    Good summary blog of deals (especially Sunday Ads)!

  6. I love me my EcoGamer. It has saved me more than a few dollars on purchases!

  7. GameDealDaily.com is another site to watch out for. If you are familiar with Woot, it is like Woot for gamers, offering up mostly 360 and PS3 games. It has a deal a day, but it also has a store where you can purchase past deals until they run out.

    One of the most notable deals was offering the 360 version of Bioshock 2 at just $40 only a week after release.

  8. Half.com

    Their front page features GoW III at $36.95 (savings of 38%), FF VIII at $32.99 (savings of 45%), and Splinter Cell: Conviction at $31.00 (savings of 48%)

    My advice: wait a handful of months for single player games to get cheap. I find multiplayer games to be more worthy of the full $60 price tag rather than a single play through of something like Assassins Creed (which is a great bargain today, given you’ve yet to play it).

  9. I should also add – “don’t be afraid to combine outlet credit”.

    By that, I mean I just picked up Super Street Fighter IV new for $25 on Gamestop.com. I’m now flipping it on Goozex for $60 worth of points.

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