Gaming on a Budget: A Guide for New Gamers

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For the new would-be gamers out there who might be put off by the cost that that is associated with gaming, here are five potential ways to become a frugal gamer, all of which come with their own pros and cons…

Preowned Games

This one’s pretty obvious and most gamers are already neck-deep in preowned games. For those who aren’t, it’s never been a better time to go preowned than now, with Blu-rays (or WUP-006 if it’s Wii U) being nigh on indestructible – just one notch below an old Nokia. If you’re paranoid with second-hand items like me, the trick is to not think too much about the previous owners and their (questionable) treatment of those discs and to embrace this recyclable culture.

Combine trading in old games to cut the cost of preowned games and you’re looking at quite the potential savings. Now, admittedly if you were to go preowned and trade-in at a high-street establishment, you probably won’t be saving all that much…

Here’s what I managed to buy after I traded in my entire PS3 collection at GAME.

Here’s what I managed to buy after I traded in my entire PS3 collection at GAME. 

So your best bet is to cut off the middle man entirely and try to be as direct as possible when it comes to buying/selling preowned games. Things like eBay and Gumtree are quite good. I managed to get myself a preowned copy of Until Dawn (PS4) for about £27 on eBay when it was still going for £39.99 – £45.99 preowned in most stores. It does require some luck and a bit of legwork (more so when you’re selling) but in almost all cases you’ll be better off than going to the High Street.

Free-to-Play Games

The free in ‘free-to-play games’ is often wrapped in quotations, because most of the time ‘free’-to-play games are riddled with micro-transactions (small in-game items that can be bought with real money.) In some cases, they’re purely cosmetic items that don’t affect gameplay, but the same can’t be said for all of them…

One of the more successful free-to-play games is Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, a digital card game available on a multitude of platforms (PC, Mac, iOS, Android) and yes, you don’t have to pay a penny, you could download it right now (or after I’ve finished this article, if you would be so kind).

A forewarning however, whilst some may argue that Hearthstone is a legitimate free-to-play game with the ability to buy card packs and craft cards through in-game currency (gold) I’d argue that accruing gold is purposely a chore, especially if you only have default decks at your disposal. Some decks like the ‘Wallet Warrior’ are named as such by the HS community due to the fact that they contain about a million Legendary cards (the rarest of cards) which requires blowing your hard-earned real-world money on a bunch of digital card packs.

The Wallet Warrior: a deck that requires the complex strategy of going to the e-shop and buying 500 packs.

The Wallet Warrior: a deck that requires the complex strategy of going to the e-shop and buying 500 packs.

Every time you lose a game in Hearthstone, you’re only a fingertip away from pressing that “Shop” icon and in a bout of rage and vengeance, buying more card packs than you should just to beat a 13 year old sociopath who crushed your rubbish default deck. When you finally do beat him after spending almost a hundred pounds, it feels good, but I wouldn’t know because that’s never happened to me.

The point is, the sentiment rings true for a lot of free-to-play games; they’re designed to make you want to spend more money. That said, Hearthstone in particular is one of the most viewed games on Twitch.com, so you might be able to make all your money back by becoming the next Hearthstone star on Twitch, who knows?

(Other notable free-to-play games are Planetside 2, League of Legends and Team Fortress 2.)

Retro Gaming

“Those graphics hurt my eyes” and “Do I actually have to manually save?” are the words I usually hear when I try to introduce old games to my current-generation acquaintances. But if being able to actually see the pixels doesn’t bother you, or some antiquated gameplay that involves using an ink ribbon on a typewriter to save progress – then retro gaming is probably for you. Retro gaming is a dirt-cheap hobby, it’s only when you’re searching for esoteric games (e.g. Suikoden 2) then things can get quite expensive but popular games that sold in the millions like the older GTAs or Final Fantasy’s etc. will always be in the bargain bin for a good honest price.

In fact Bournemouth has its own specialist retro gaming shop called Warez, found in a place where 95% of second year University students are destined to live, Winton. Classic consoles come at the nice price of:

  • Playstation – £19.99 (£24.99 for the smaller PSone)
  • Playstation 2 – £29.99
  • Sega Dreamcast – £39.99
  • Nintendo Gamecube – £24.99

Go deeper into the past and prices tend to shoot up, with an unboxed SNES costing £49.99. There’s no Nintendo 64’s for sale, but you can find them on eBay with varying prices of £30 – £60.

If those console prices haven’t convinced you, then maybe the games will. Six of the top ten games of all time all hail from those very consoles listed above, with Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64) standing firmly at the top spot. I might be generalising a bit here, possibly wearing my rose-tinted glasses as I say this, but older games seem to be more worth the money compared to the likes of current generation games. With words like DLC (downloadable content) and even micro-transactions infiltrating our current generation of gaming lexicon, it’s no wonder that today’s games are so stripped down – older games however, gave you the complete package.

Warez Gaming on Winton Highstreet is a great place to source retro games and consoles.

Warez Gaming on Winton High Street is a great place to source retro games and consoles.

Don’t just take my word for it. There’s an evident resurgence of old-school games sneaking their way back and being remastered into the HD era, now available on current generation platforms through the online stores. Which brings us nicely to the next point…

Playstation Plus/Xbox Live

Yes, the place where one can purchase those very classics in HD (I recommend Resident Evil: Remaster, currently £14.99 on PS4), but not only are the Sony/Microsoft online stores a good place to buy the classics and/or indie titles, if you buy into their subscriptions (Playstation Plus / Xbox Live Gold) you’ll also be given free games, which is quite nice of them.

At the time of speaking, a monthly subscription for both Playstation Plus and Xbox Live (Gold) costs £5.99. It’s important to note that it can be made cheaper by looking around (either online or high-street) for bundles of 3 – 12 months, generally the bigger the bundle the more you’ll save per month. As an example, right now in November the free games you get with Playstation Plus are:

  • The Walking Dead: Season 2 (PS4)
  • Magicka 2 (PS4)
  • Mass Effect 2 (PS3)
  • Beyond Good & Evil (PS3)
  • Dragon Fin Soup (PS4, PS Vita + PS3 Cross-Buy when available)
  • Invizimals (PS Vita)

And on Xbox Live (Gold) for the month of November:

  • The Walking Dead: Season 1 (Xbox One)
  • Pneuma: Breath of Life (Xbox One)
  • Knight Squad (Xbox One)
  • DiRT 3 (Xbox 360)
  • Dungeon Siege III (Xbox 360)

And they’re generally the type of games you’ll see as the months go by. Whilst not necessarily triple A titles and mostly Indie games, you will get the odd big blockbuster game of the past. Now, as stated in a previous point, the word free here comes with big juicy quotations. Think of the “free” games you get with Plus / Live like the films you get on Netflix, you won’t necessarily own the products you get for free despite downloading them onto your HDD, you’re just allowed to play them as long as you maintain the subscription. The moment you stop paying and that massive library of games you’ve accrued will be frozen in stasis, unable to be played until you give into to the unrelenting machine known as capitalism. So keep that in mind.

Steam Sales

Chances are you’ve probably heard about the infamous Steam sales, it’s almost as well known as the DFS furniture sale, which, like the universe, started roughly thirteen billion years ago and is still going strong today. Steam, for those of you not in the know, was created by Valve, the makers of Half-Life. In its simplest form, it’s an online shop for PC/Mac Gaming none too dissimilar from an online marketplace like iTunes.

Steam sales usually occur during the summer or winter and often include many games at dangerously low prices. So dangerous in fact that many people have found themselves inundated with more purchased games than mathematically possible to play through in one lifetime. And that’s just after one sale.

Public Service Announcement: Please shop responsibly during the Steam Sales.

Public Service Announcement: Please shop responsibly during Steam Sales.

If Indie titles are enough to satiate your gaming needs, then luckily you won’t need an especially good PC (or Mac) to play them on, and chances are you’ve already got the needs to play most indie titles. A good little site that organises all the games up for sale on Steam and includes a countdown timer for the next big sale can be found at: https://steamdb.info/sales/

Whether you choose a particular point or combine a few, it’s very much possible to get into gaming without breaking the bank and hopefully this little guide has given that gentle nudge of encouragement. Go forth and become a frugal gamer…