It pays to get physical
Downloading games is far more convenient than buying them on a disc these days but if you play on consoles, buying a physical copy often costs substantially less – especially a few weeks or months after a game comes out.
Use a price comparison website such as Best-Game-Price.co.uk, which lists lots of different retailers, and you will often be able to save £10 or more, even on new full-price games. Ebay regularly has random discount code promotions that can be applied to physical games.
Plus, you have got something to put on your shelf that you can resell later or lend to a friend.
You can regularly find discount code promotions on eBay that can be applied to physical games. Photograph: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock Look out for digital sales
That said, when the PlayStation Store, Nintendo eShop or Xbox Store have digital sales, the discounts can be great.
All the digital storefronts have rolling sales most of the time. PlayStation tends to go for a theme or a genre, Xbox will discount a whole franchise or publisher range at once, and Nintendo will randomly have seasonal discounts.
For the uninitiated, Steam is a hugely popular online video game platform
However, the undisputed king of the video game sales is the Steam sale aimed at PC gamers, which happens twice a year – in summer and winter.
For the uninitiated, Steam is a hugely popular online video game platform. Discounts are huge, offering brilliant games for a few quid, and there is usually a “metagame” attached to make it more fun: last time, it hid fake games with names such as Help Get the King to the Toilet among the real ones, complete with artwork, and you got a little reward for finding them.
Digital sales are also great for extending the life of games you already own: you can buy gold editions, season passes or game-of-the-year editions at a huge discount months down the line, and furnish yourself with all the extra content that has been released since.
Embrace the bundle
On digital storefronts, you can often buy a whole series of a game and its sequel together to save cash. If you really want value, though, check out Humble Bundle’s limited-time bundles. They include curated selections of anywhere from five to 100-plus games at a pay-what-you-want price, and a significant portion of the money raised goes to charities.
Almost half a million people bought its 123-game Stand With Ukraine bundle earlier this year, raising more than £17.5m for related causes.
Head for the sales
Buying consoles for less is significantly harder than buying games for less, especially at the moment, because chip shortages and other supply chain problems are affecting how many can actually be made. It is still rather difficult to get hold of a PlayStation 5, for instance, even at the recommended retail price. But the usual seasonal electronics sales, particularly the new year and Black Friday ones, always include games consoles.
It is still rather difficult to get hold of a PlayStation 5. Photograph: Gonzalo Arroyo/FIFA/Getty Images
Retail companies such as Currys, Game and John Lewis are the best to go to, but also keep a close eye on online specialists such as ShopTo, Base and the Game Collection, which will frequently fire out stock alerts to keep customers in the loop.
Back in the 2000s, game shops were making millions from trade-ins – much to the consternation of the developers who made those games, who saw none of the secondhand revenue.
Because of the shift towards digital downloads, trade-ins are less prevalent but chains, such as Game and CeX, are still going strong. You can trade in physical copies of games, Blu-rays or other electronics towards the cost of a new game or console.
This perhaps goes without saying, but always go for store credit rather than cash.
You know those £10, £20 and £50 gift cards for the Epic, Steam, Xbox, Nintendo or PlayStation stores that you often see in supermarkets? You can buy them online and get slightly more value for your money – ShopTo is selling £35 of PlayStation Store credit for £31, for instance. The discounts can be even more compelling on higher-value gift cards.
Beware dodgy resale sites
Steer clear of “game key resellers” that offer suspicious discounts on digital PC game codes.
These places are often questionably legal, and, if something goes wrong with your game code, you will have lost your money. It is best to stick to buying digital games from official storefronts on PCs and consoles.
Subscriptions that pay off
PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold subscriptions let you play games online with your friends – but they also come with a few free games every month, if you remember to redeem them.
The PlayStation Plus selections are usually especially good. If you don’t care about actually owning games, Xbox and PlayStation now offer access to huge libraries of games for a £10-ish subscription fee every month, so you can play a few hundred titles for as long as you want, for as long as you are signed up.
The Xbox Game Pass allows players to download games. Photograph: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/Rex/Shutterstock
Xbox Game Pass, in particular, is an absurdly good deal, as it includes all of the Microsoft Studios’ new games as soon as they are released. As with Netflix, the selection changes with time, so be aware that a game you love might randomly disappear from the library.
You know how it is – everyone’s talking about, for example, the game Elden Ring, and you’ve got a powerful case of Fomo (fear of missing out). It is a new game, though, and costs £60. But if you wait even just a couple of months, you will save money. Wait longer, and you will save even more.
Gamers tend to be neophiles, and there was a time when a five- or the 10-year-old game would just not be worth playing.
Happily that is not the case now, and you can enjoy brilliant games that you missed out on in the past for less than £10. For
If you really want to get more for your money, all you have to do is play older games. They’re still good!