Games are expensive, and if you want to play every great game out there, you had better have a lot of cash on hand. That is how it used to be, anyway. These days, the internet, competition at B&M stores, and a crowded market ensure that if you look hard enough you should be able to find pretty much any game you want for a reasonable price. You won't get many games right on launch day, and they won't always be brand new shrinkwrapped copies, but you can build your collection very quickly for very little money if you put some effort into it.
Your first stop when looking for cheap games should be CheapAssGamer.com. The site is constantly updated with new deals from online retailers and CAG is usually the first place to find them, which means you have a pretty good chance of getting in on a deal before they are all gone.
You can also find free magazine subscriptions, new coupon codes for online retailers, and a listing of weekly deals for brick and mortar (B&M, i.e. real world) stores. Many deals are first posted in the forums and the community is pretty good, so it is worth registering. CAG also has a tracking feature that is updated daily that has a listing of all of the price changes for online stores such as EB/GameStop and Amazon.com. Basically, if you want cheap games, you need to make reading CAG a daily habit.
Used Games From EB/Gamestop
Back in the days before EB and GameStop merged together, finding great deals on used games was common. EB had a morning update where their inventory was updated, and if you wanted to find rare or uncommon games, waking up early was the way to go. EB also guaranteed that the games would be complete and in good shape. Unfortunately, since the merger, things haven’t been so good. The morning update is gone. And games are no longer guaranteed to be complete. There are still some deals to be found on GameStop/EB, and you can use coupon codes such as “cag16" to save money on any used game purchase. You have to weigh that savings against not getting a case or a manual, though, so consider that before you order online.
In stores, you can check the condition of games before you buy them, so it is a lot safer. You can also buy an Edge card that gives you 10% off used games plus a year subscription to Game Informer. GI also usually comes with coupons to use in-store, which is nice. I also recommend subscribing to the GameStop newsletter because they have weekend specials that are only advertised in the newsletter.
Pawn shops get kind of a bad rap, but you can find some real treasures in them if you work hard enough at it. You never know when someone is going to dump a bunch of games off in order to make a quick buck, and most pawn shops have no real clue how to price games so you can pick up games for fairly cheap. The key to pawn shops is persistence. You might not find something the first time, but go back in a couple weeks and check it out again. Cheap games are worth the trouble, aren’t they?
Local Game Shops
Perhaps the best source for cheap games is locally owned shops. Most local shops will give you a better trade-in value than GameStop will offer, so you can buy a game, beat it, trade it for a new one, and the cycle just repeats itself. The prices at these local shops are always good and very favorable compared to GS and EB, so it is easy to pick up great games for cheap even if you aren’t interested in trading.
You can rent games through GameFly, but don’t forget you can also buy games from them. Their prices are very, very good compared to GameStop. You can also buy new releases (rent them and then choose "Keep It") for much cheaper than normal. For example, a new, $60 release can be purchased for about $42 from Gamefly.
Brick and Mortar Clearance
Stores such as Best Buy, Circuit City, and Toys R’ Us regularly have clearance sales to freshen up their stock and make room for new product. These clearances can be crazy, with prices slashed down to less than $10. Now that the Xbox 360 has been out for a while, expect to see more and more games available in these clearances. Even cruddy games are worth $10 or less, if only for achievements. The key to these clearance sales is to be quick. If you wait a few days or a week after you find out about it, don’t expect to find anything good.
Players Choice, Platinum Hits, Greatest Hits
The box art might be ugly, but these best selling games are usually fairly high quality and for $20 or less (now $30 or less for next-gen games) it is worth putting up with the less than appealing box art. These lines of cheap games are a great way to pick up games you missed when they first came out. You really can’t beat the price.
Half.com / eBay
My personal favorite place to find cheap games is Half.com. You get all of the convenience of eBay without having to bid or use that horrible PayPal service, so it is a win/win situation for both you as the buyer and the sellers since they don’t have to worry about when you pay them. You can find some really crazy good deals on games through Half and eBay, and they are almost always in great condition.
The hard truth about this list is that you have to accept buying used games. New games can and do drop in price, sometimes unexpectedly, but your best shot at saving money is to take advantage of the used games offered at EB, GameStop, local game shops, rental stores, and eBay. Some people don't like used games, but if you want to save money you have no other choice. The games are in great condition 95% of the time, so there really is little to worry about. If you take advantage of the tips in this article, you can easily own a ton of great games without breaking the bank.
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