Gaming on a Budget – Personal Tips and Tricks to Playing the Most, While Paying the Least

Being an avid gamer since the moment I’ve had consciousness, I have spent many long years finding various ways to get my hands on some of the latest virtual goodies, however most of that time was spent prior to having personal income. Because of this, I would find various ways to work around a limited, or nonexistent gaming budget while still satisfying my desire to game. Today I share the fruits of my labors with the masses.

While not revolutionary by any means, there are still those out there not wise to the various ways around waiting for a game to hit shelves, and paying full retail in a brick and mortar store. The first of these methods is digital content providers like Steam and Impulse. Once a source of chagrin to many a Counter-Strike player, Steam has grown from a bugged-out matchmaking service for valves games, to a full featured digital store where players can purchase games and download them immediately to their computers, forgoing the need for traveling to the store.

There are many advantages Steam and Impulse have over EB Games or Best Buy, the first being the amazing sales and package deals the digital outlets can offer. Every weekend, both companies often cut the price of several popular games by 75% or more, with daily sales of 50-75% and holiday events where players can purchase entire libraries worth of games for mere change, as witnessed by some 95% off deals that happened on Steam this past Christmas. In addition, both services offer package deals, where you can literally purchase every game ever published by a developer or publisher in one go at a heavy discount. Basically Steam and Impulse throw deals comparable to Black Friday at the physical stores, on a weekly basis, that no gamer should pass up. Steam is the service I purchase the vast majority of my games from, including DC Universe Online.

Another avenue I have taken over the years is utilizing the now well established, movie and video game trading platform known as Goozex. This service uses a point system to value items, combined with a trade matching algorithm to allow people to list games or DVDs they are willing to trade to others. The system then proceeds to match two people, one who is requesting with a player offering an item, whom then exchange game for points through the USPS. Each trade costs the requesting player $1.99 while the person offering the game for points is charged the shipping. This service may not be the fastest way to get the game you are looking for, however the way it is designed actually retains the value of your collections better than trying to exchange your games to stores as trade ins, or even selling them yourself on eBay in many cases.

Option number three comes in the form of searching for and signing up for beta programs. This is essentially telling a game company you are willing to help them give their games some final bug testing as the product nears the release stage in its development, in exchange for getting early access to playing the game for free. Most games you can find that do this are MMORPGs such as Vindictus but occasionally single player games like Supreme Commander host beta programs as well. This typically requires a little searching on your part, and it helps to check in on beta watch sites, like the one over at fileplanet. If you want to find out about beta’s on your own, get a magazine subscription or find a gaming website that covers up to date games in development to find out what’s new in the development pipes, then check in often at the game’s web site, which is where closed or open beta programs are typically announced.

Last and most certainly not least, is the availability of free to play online games, which is just recently a trend that has begun to take off. The sources of these are endless, and I’m not talking about those crap Facebook games (which in my opinion need to burn) I’m talking about games with quality and substance. Let me just spout off a few games you can get access to now completely for free that are actual video games; Anarchy Online, Shattered Galaxy, Mankind, Black Prophecy, Vindictus, Zentia, and again, fileplanet has a big list of further reading here.

All in all by just using the methods above, and occasionally borrowing from a friend, you can really stretch your money out to some far lengths, and I highly suggest never wasting your time with another Zynga crap – cookie cutter game again, and if you need your text based game fix, or can’t play the more advanced games because they will catch you at work, then I suggest Astro Empires.