It’s November, which means it’s Black Friday season once again (the Friday after Thanksgiving which now somehow lasts a full month) and the internet retailers and brick-and-mortar chains that remain are doing business. Traditionally, this is the best/worst time to be a video game fan. The best, because tons of A-rated games have generous sales, some of them for the first time. And the worst, because you probably bought a lot of those games at full price when they came out, and if you’re anything like me, you’ve barely played them since.
That’s why, in the interest of never feeling the sting of unrealized savings, I’ve vowed never to pay full price for a game again, and you should too.
FOMO versus reality
Before you rush to tell me I was wrong, I’ll start with a caveat: if you’re the type of gamer who simply must play the hot new game when it’s newest and hottest, so by all means do it. But be honest with yourself before you pre-order: How many games do you have in your backlog? How likely are you, really, to start playing on launch day? Waiting even just a few months can land you a substantial discount off that $50 or $60 list price, whether it’s due to a sale at Target or a price drop on a digital download.
I’m not exactly a hardcore gamer – I currently only own a Switch, which I didn’t pick up until last year. Despite this, I’ve amassed dozens of games over the past year and a half, almost all of them bought at a steep discount, to the point where I currently have more titles in my backlog than I will ever play. You probably do too. So why not play one of them while you wait for the cool new game to go on sale? I promise you, Heavenly it’s still as good as it was the day you first downloaded it.
Bonus: If you’re not clamoring for the latest games, you’ll hear even more content looking forward to buy that PS5 or Xbox Series X without pulling out your hair– and when you finally get one, you’ll have a huge library of older, cheaper games to choose from.
Avoid the bugs, enjoy the DLC and don’t get burned
Waiting a bit also means you won’t have to suffer the frustration of the launch day bug, which affects more big-name titles than it really should (two recent examples: Cyberpunk 2077 And Pokémon Scarlet and Purple). When you pick up a game on sale, it’s likely that the biggest bugs have either been fixed or are too big to fix, which means you’ll be able to steer clear if need be.
Likewise, you’ll also be able to go through a lot more reviews. Yes, the biggest games are usually reviewed by major outlets (like our sister site Kotaku) within the first few weeks. But a review by a professional looking to cram 20+ hours of gameplay into a few days so that a timely critique can be presented it may tell you less that it applies to your gaming preferences than an article or video from a smaller outlet or content creator released weeks or months later. And due to the sheer volume of games that drop each week, many indie games don’t get extensively reviewed until weeks or months after release.
Additionally, these days many titles, both from major developers and indie studios, receive new features and gameplay improvements via DLC, which could arrive weeks, months, or even years after their initial release. Sometimes these updates are free, so you’ll be able to enjoy them now if you wait. Other times, the DLC will cost you a few dollars, but again, often waiting means you’ll be able to buy a “deluxe” version of the same, including all DLCs, for less than what you would have paid for the base game at launch. (A good recent example of this: Independent success Sons of Morta it cost $22 on the Switch when it released in 2019; earlier this year, I collected the Morta’s Children: Complete Edition, including $7 worth of DLC, for about $10.)
There’s also the fact that even after doing your research and reading all the reviews, you might not like a particular game. And since returns are rarely an option these days, especially if you prefer digital downloads, you’ll be far less annoyed if you pay $7.99 instead of the $25, or $40, or $60. (Sons of Morta it’s actually a good example here too – I’m really glad I only paid $10, as despite enjoying the vibes, it turns out I’m really bad at it and can’t get past the first dungeon.)
It’s easier than ever to never pay retail for a new game
It used to be that buying cheap games was much more difficult. (I’m old in my gaming years, which means I remember when the only way to get a Nintendo game for less than retail was to hope it eventually earned “Player’s Choice” status.) Now, though, the magic of the Internet means that you probably don’t have to do much to find all the games on your wish list with a generous sale, other than develop some healthy patience.
Sites like DekuOffers (for Switch games), Cheap player, and many others they let you create a wish list of all the games you’re interested in and sign up to get alerts when they drop in price. My DekuDeals wishlist currently consists of about 30 titles, and on any given day, four or five are on sale. Helpful bar charts tell me how that day’s price compares to past selling, so I can make an educated decision about whether it’s a really good time to buy, or if I should keep waiting and go back to my backlog instead. Just this week, in a flurry of early Christmas shopping, I picked up both the last one Mario Feast And the critically adored Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga for a total of $60, which is how much I would have paid for either one on the release date.
And that’s not even mentioning subscription services like PlayStation+ and Xbox Game Pass, which give you access to dozens of top-rated titles every month for a monthly fee that’s less than the cost of a single game on sale. Many major titles will eventually hit one of these services and give you plenty of other things to play in the process.
The exceptions prove the rule
Occasionally there will be those games that capture the zeitgeist and seem to demand to be played immediately: Elden ring And Animal crossing being two examples from the pandemic era that come to mind. But think how rarely those behemoths come. Far more common are examples like the recent indie sensation Neon white, which caused a huge pre-release hype and had everyone talking… for about five days. So the gaming media interest moved onto the next thing, leaving you plenty of time to pick it up on sale.
I’m not saying I’ll never buy a full price game again. But all the ones I don’t buy until they go on sale free up $10 or $20 or more in my gaming budget that I can invest in older (cheaper) games that will be just as satisfying. Just don’t wait too long—you don’t want to risk your must-have title turning into a vintage collector’s item.