Video games are an expensive hobby, there’s no denying that. At the very least you need an expensive platform to play it on, be it an iPhone, PS4, or state-of-the-art PC. On top of that initial investment, you usually also need to get controllers, a TV or monitor, and the actual games themselves. At the end of whole process gaming is a significant financial investment, something the vast majority of students simply can’t afford. This article will hopefully lay out some little known (and completely legal) tips to follow and places to go in order to minimise your investment.
For starters, free games are surprisingly easy to get. Of course, there are literally thousands of games with free-to-play models, from huge MMOs like The Old Republic (allegedly the most expensive game ever made) to world-wide phenomenons such as the Candy Crush series. However, as most people are aware, these games are often far from ‘free’, and your full enjoyment will be limited micro transactions. Of course not all free-to-play models are unfair (It’s entirely possible to build a competitive Hearthstone deck without spending a penny), but the majority will never let you forget that you could be spending more money to have more fun. The real goal is getting a game entirely for free, no strings attached, and this is easier that it sounds.
If you’re a PC or laptop user, EA’s platform Origin has been giving away completely free games since 2014. These vary from arcade classics like Plants vs. Zombies, to recent blockbusters such as Battlefield 3. Earlier this year they gave out all of Battlefield 4’s DLC and expansions for free in as a publicity stunt for Battlefield 1, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for free content when the next big release in a series is close to launch. Similarly, Ubisoft’s Uplay platform has been giving out free games every month this year to celebrate its 30th anniversary, although that’ll end in December so pick it up while you can.
While the Xbox Gold and PS Plus programmes also offer free games, these services require a monthly subscription and are mandatory if you want to play online. The free games are definitely an added bonus, but they definitely come with a catch. EA has also launched ‘EA Access’, essentially Netflix for video games, which gives you access to vault of EA games (from Mass Effect 3 to FIFA 16) for a monthly subscription. It also gives you a 10% discount on EA content and allows you to trial upcoming games for free to see if you like them. If you don’t have the lump sum to splash out on a big new game, or know you might only have the free time during half term, it might be worth picking up a month’s EA Access subscription.
The vast majority of games won’t be available for free, and this is where you have to get smart with your spending. Obviously huge sales come around every Black Friday or Christmas on virtually every marketplace which sells games. If you’re a console gamer keep an eye on your console’s storefront around these times to pick up hugely discounted games, but for the rest of the year CEX and other second hand stores are your best bet for cheap games.
‘you have to get smart with your spending’
Laptop and desktop gamers have a lot more choice available to them in terms of cheap games. The legendary Steam sales roll around every few months or so, and while they’re no longer as good as they once were, it’s still very common to see critically acclaimed games discounted as much as 90%. Steam has also recently improved its customer service if you weren’t already aware, so any Steam game you buy can be returned within 2 weeks of ownership/ 2 hours of playtime for a complete refund. Worth knowing if you want to try out a game for an hour to see if you like it or not.
While on the topic of refunds, GOG, or Good Old Games, is famous for its commitment to customer satisfaction. While its focus is less on modern blockbusters and more on classics, it’s worth looking at to pick up some cheap games from the past you may have overlooked.
Websites like Humble Bundle also offer incredible value for money, often with savings of up to 90%, with the added benefit of knowing a proportion of your money is going directly to a charity of your choosing. They don’t just do games, with regularly updated bundles of books, comics, mobile games, editing software such as Photoshop and more. It’s really worth looking at every few months or so to see what’s on offer.
Gaming doesn’t have to break the bank, even if you’re doing it on an expensive console or PC. Shop around, don’t impulse buy, and use your right to a refund as much as you can, and gaming can be as affordable as any other hobby.