Gaming On The Cheap Part 2 - Cheap Games
In part one we looked at ways to game for absolutely nothing and uncovered a surprisingly large amount of quality games both new and old to enjoy but what if you're pining over those games that sit on the shelf for 40 quid or have a huge Steam wishlist of the most recent releases? Well, you might still be shit out of luck but there's a few ways to improve your chances.
Before we continue we'd like to say that we have NOT been paid or otherwise contracted to promote the stores mentioned below and all recommendations are the personal opinions of the writer. Readers should use their own judgement and common sense when shopping as we're not liable for anything, ever.
Possibly the largest chance to save a huge amount of cash comes twice a year in the form of the Steam summer and winter sales. These two events usually run for a couple of weeks each and offer a great chance to grab the latest and greatest games for a hefty discount. You can easily expect to save between 50-80% on most big name games, often with a chance to pick up a publisher or developers entire catalogue at a big discount, so even if you already own one or two of their games it can sometimes be beneficial to consider buying the bundles - just be sure to do the math first so you save as much as possible. The Steam sales are also an excellent time to grab DLC packs as throughout each sale almost all DLC goes on a huge discount, especially if the game is on sale too. So hold off on that weapon pack or extra few missions and chances are you'll get them for a better price.
In addition to the Steam winter and summer sales you've also got Steams regular sales. There's a single title flash sale that happens every single day at 6PM GMT (usually about 10-15 minutes late due to server load, etc) that doesn't always have the best games in, but the discount can be good enough that if you're curious it won't be such an issue if the game isn't everything you hoped for (even less risky with the new Steam refund policy!)
Happening twice weekly is the Midweek Madness (running Tuesday through Thursday) and weekend deal (running Friday through Monday) in these there's usually one game but sometimes a bundle but not at such a great discount – though free weekends are also a thing that happen quite regularly. If you don't have the willpower to wait for the summer or winter sales these two deals can be a great way to pick up a quality game without the wait. In addition to this, there's sometimes two weekend deals running at the same time, so it's worth clicking the little next button under the ad on the Steam store.
Finally we have the weekly Steam sale - starting every Monday at 6PM GMT this consists of anywhere between 20 and 200 games of varying quality all discounted for the entire week. In my experience there's usually at least one or two hidden gems or known good games in each Monday sale but by and large the games here aren't so great. Still, it doesn't cost anything to have a look and you might be surprised at what you'll find.
Time to move away from Steam somewhat and look at some other excellent sources of cheap games:
The Humble Bundle, probably the most prestigious bundle site and by far the one with the best bundles week in and week out. The way it all works is there's a basic bundle, usually the lions share, where you pay what you want and if you match or beat the average paid you get a couple of extras. Sometimes there's a minimum price put on extras, like $15 to get everything plus two extra games for example. It's all clearly marked on the site so you can tell what you're getting for what you pay.
Any games you buy on Humble Bundle are available for download from the Humble Bundle site as well as usually coming with Steam keys so you can tie the games to your Steam account. In addition to this, you can always give away your games by clicking a little present icon and sharing the link it generates with a friend so you can be generous with your duplicates while still getting games cheap.
Humble Bundle don't just cover PC games, there's also Android bundles and books (often great comics/graphic novels too!) but lets take a look at each thing they do separately;
Humble Bundle - the bundle is a bi-weekly event that's the main draw, usually featuring big name games in a pay what you want system. These bundles tend to reset at 7PM GMT every other Tuesday.
Humble Weekly Sale - every single week there's a bundle, usually smaller than the main bundle but still extremely generous. These tend to feature indie games or more closely themed packs. These reset every week at 7PM Thursdays.
Humble Books Bundle - various formats of books, audio books, comics and such are bundled together in a theme (e.g. sci-fi, Transformers, Dynamite comics, etc) and priced in tiers, with the lowest being a pay what you want system. These often have previews or free books/comics included that sometimes change each day or two. This bundle resets at 7PM GMT on Wednesdays and like the Humble Bundle usually runs for a fortnight.
Insert-name-here Bundles - often bundles of comics and the like but these bundles are for a specific topic and often feature incredible amounts of content and sometimes (rarely) physical goods like t-shirts and figures. At the time of writing there isn't one but as an example there was The Walking Dead bundle; with a huge amount of issues and other comics Kirkman has worked on as well as generously priced physical items. These bundles aren't very common but are usually good.
Humble Store - the Humble Store is a permanent fixture and their prices are more often than not slashed for games both new and old. Only the really big name games will be sold at full price usually and a little digging can often turn up recent bundles that have been popular. Well worth digging through every week or two to see what's on sale. They also run sales regularly, usually from Friday to Monday an example of which can be seen above.
If all that doesn't float your boat, Humble Bundle always supports charities with their bundles, and at the payment section you can determine how much of your money goes to the developers, Humble and charities with a bunch of sliders so you can feel good while buying games.
Bundle Stars usually have a healthy selection of themed bundles for insanely low prices. You don't get to pay what you want but more often than not you'll be getting 5-8 games for about £2. I've found the quality of the games they offer vary wildly but their store has a huge selection of quality game bundles if you have a dig through. Recently they've been doing things like the “Triple Threat” deal where you get massive discounts on quality games, an example of which can be seen above. As with Humble Bundle you get Steam keys for most of the games too, there's usually a symbol indicating what platform the games are on.
Similar to Humble Bundle, Indiegala run several bundles at the same time with regular weekly bundles on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays along with other bundles of various themes sprinkled throughout. They also have a store page that offers excellent prices on a variety of indie and not-so-indie games. Their selection is a bit more hit and miss than Humble Bundle but more reliable in terms of quality than Bundle Stars or Groupees.
You can rarely go wrong with the selection of games from Indiegala and the update schedule means it's well worth checking their site every couple of days to see whether you can save some dosh.
Not always the best value for money, but if you're looking to pre-order or buy the latest releases at a discount GMG often has 10-20% off those. Sometimes you can find a great deal on only moderately aged games too. You'll need a Steam account for a lot of your purchases on there but lets face it, you probably already have one. Personally I've not bought a lot of games from them but the handful I have purchased have been well priced.
GMG also offer Xbox and Playstation games, including pre-owned, the latter of which can be a source of good quality boxed disk copies of console games for a worthwhile price. This site is one of the best for picking up the latest generation of console games on the cheap.
GOG.com is one of my favourite sources for old and new games. They rework the old games, either with patches or pre-configured DOSbox installs to provide a hassle free way to play games not compatible with modern hardware and operating systems. They get a lot of new indie releases and have recently branched out to support Linux too.
Every Friday there's a weekend deal that has a generous selection of games, often from a particular dev or publisher (29 games at the time of writing, including Worms, Guilty Gear, Superfrog, Speedball 2 and The Chaos Engine) at a discount. Typically the more games in the pack you buy the bigger the discount and sometimes even if you only want a handful of the games it can be cheaper to buy the whole bundle.
There's also GOG's gem promos which run every week and promote a single game along with a discount on its price, so it's worth keeping an eye on that news feed on the right side each time you visit.
Finally we have GOG's huge annual sales, their summer sale runs with timed bundles and flash sales that usually refresh every 8-10 hours and often repeat on a timed offset so if you miss one while you're sleeping it'll come back up in the afternoon a couple of days later. It's worth visiting a couple of times a day during these sales to keep an eye on what's going cheap as it's not just old games that get big discounts in these events.
With the prices being in dollars instead of pounds sterling you can save a bunch anyway, even at regular prices so GOG can be an excellent source of cheap gaming all the time. Additionally, they're the only source I know of that sells the Neverwinter Nights 2 Mysteries Of Westgate expansion as part of the NWN2 bundle.
Best of all, it's all DRM free so if you want you can stick the installers on a DVD or USB drive and keep them forever and they'll keep on working.
Another bundle site, the quality varies a lot and there's a minimum $1.50 purchase. The bundles here are almost always lesser known indie games of varying quality. Additionally there's usually music albums, again often from indie artists, bundled in with the games and every now and then a graphic novel or audiobook will find its way into the pack. Usually the bundles come with Steam keys and some Desura keys though it can vary from bundle to bundle so remember to read the information on the page carefully.
Fellow British cheapskates Savy Gamer are very much a British focused site and you'll often have to jump through hoops to get the discounts but their advice is sound and the deals current. They don't sell games themselves but have a constant feed of ways to save money, usually by following a couple of quick (or not so quick) steps. Well worth a look if you don't mind a bit of faffing about to save some cash.
G2A is both a distributor and reseller site so it's always worth being careful when purchasing games from them. The discounts can be incredible; often you'll be able to save up to 50-60% on pre-orders of big name games like Metal Gear Solid 5 or Call Of Duty. Even older games often have a solid discount slapped on them thanks to resellers but stolen keys are often trafficked through sites like G2A and some keys are region locked so just read the page carefully and weigh the risks for yourself.
In my personal experience G2A also has an excellent support staff, having encountered stolen keys on the site before I've had good relations with the support team where I've received refunds when showing proof of the key being revoked.
Disclaimer: The link above is a referral link that will net us a small share (usually about 60p per £30) of any purchases made at no extra cost to you. You can sign up for your own referral codes on their Goldmine page.
The store can have some good bargains on things like MMO time cards (often able to get 60 days for the price of 30) or Xbox Live subscription cards (often half price for a 12 month time card).
A UK and Brazilian store that runs the occasional sale. In addition you earn a generous amount of store credit and discounts by being a regular customer. They also do an excellent line of things like MMO time cards, Xbox Live subscriptions, PSN wallet cards and Nintendo Store cards at a hefty discount if you buy the version where they add the code to your account instead of mailing you the physical card.
They aren't the best for having constant sales or gigantic discounts but they make up for it in other ways and have recently expanded their catalogue to include laptops and PC hardware and peripherals too making them a good alternative to other British gaming stores.
We normally wouldn't bother mentioning this but with Xbox One/PC streaming coming with Windows 10 this is an excellent option if you own an Xbox One. Basically Games With Gold is a service where you get one or two free games each month, both on 360 and Xbox One for a total of 2-4 games if you own both. The games on offer can vary in age or quality but Xbox One Games With Gold have so far been excellent titles like Pool Nation FX, Assassin's Creed 4, Massive Chalice and Rayman Legends all of which were available for free on release day via the service. Best of all, the games are yours to keep so long as you download and install them during the period they're free, allowing you to keep playing them long after their stint on Games With Gold is up.
To take advantage of Games With Gold you'll need an Xbox Live Gold subscription which is usually about £40 a year but can usually be had for somewhere around £20 from sites like G2A. Considering the volume of games and the fairly consistent quality of them makes Games With Gold almost a no-brainer for anyone looking to get piles of cheap games.