I've put off writing this monthly musing because I genuinely think 2010 was the best year for gaming ever. Starting off with "Mass Effect 2" in January and continuing all the way through December with the mind-blowing iPhone game "Infinity Blade" I was never left wanting a good game to play. In fact, that's the problem. 2010 had too many outstanding titles. Gone are the days when I'd find maybe 3 quality games to keep me occupied for a year. It seemed like every week a new title came out that I was eager to get my hands on. May 18th saw the release of "Red Dead Redemption," "Alan Wake," "Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands," and "Split/Second." All some of my favorite games of the year but if I bought all those new it would've cost me 240 bucks plus tax. Gaming is an expensive hobby but that's an absurd amount of money to drop at once. As a result, I've had to change my purchasing habits and figure out ways to play the games I want without going broke. And so far I'm almost succeeding.
The first way to game on the cheap is obviously Gamefly. I've been using this service for years now and love it. You can always get the brand new releases if you time it to send your game back the week before a game you want is released, then clear your Q of everything but the game you want. I have always had the brand new title sent to me within a few days of launch. Unfortunately, many games now require you to imput codes to play online or unlock the entire game. I've found two ways around this. First off, I've noticed at my local Blockbuster they put the cases for new games on the shelf with all the manuals and codes still tucked into the sleeve. If there's a game I've rented from Gamefly that I want to imput an online pass I'll just stroll down to Blockbuster and casually tuck the slip with the codes into my pocket. Is this ethical? I figure Blockbuster already paid for the game and if I don't snag the code someone else who rents it will. Obviously there are some games that I want to keep and that's the best part of Gamefly's "keep it now" option: They send you the case with all manuals and codes intact! Within 5 minutes of playing "NFS: Hot Pursuit" I knew I wanted to own the game. I immediately went online and opted to keep the game, it cost me 40 bucks the same week the game came out and I had my online code the day after the 2 day free pass expired. I've also managed my gaming dollars by purchasing games new with online codes and using Gamefly to rent games that don't require any online registration ie: Kirby's Epic Yarn and Goldeneye for Wii.
Another way I managed to play more games by spending less is by waiting to buy them until price drops. I mentioned May 18th as being a particularily stuffed day for releases. I purchased both "Alan Wake" and "Red Dead Redemption" on day one and they kept me entertained for quite some time. However, I never forgot about the new "Prince of Persia" and after a few short months I was able to get it new for 20 dollars! And I loved the game! Is it my fault that it didn't sell well initially and Ubisoft had to mark down the price? Possibly, but I say it's their fault for releasing it in such a crowded marketplace. The same goes for buying games used. Honestly, I think it's ridiculous to buy a used game at Gamestop for $55 when you can get it new for $60, considering that none of that money is going to the developer. But when I find "Bayonetta" for $10 in November, I have no problem picking it up. And if I enjoy it, maybe I'll buy Platinum Games' next offering new. I still do buy new games, I just have to be smart about it.
Even after all my tricky money saving I still find my bank account low and video games are to blame. The main culprit: Downloadable Titles and Content. This year I bought "Limbo," "Flower," "Pinball FX 2" plus DLC for "Red Dead," "Mass Effect 2" and "Alan Wake," just to name a few. 10-15 bucks here and there really adds up. Sometimes this DLC goes on sale but I'm too impatient. I don't think DLC is a bad thing at all, whatever gives the developers money to make more games is OK by me. In fact, I've bought DLC for games that I have bought used and loved because it's a way for me to give some cash to the creators of the game.
Being a gamer is expensive, being a cheap gamer is difficult but necessary if you want to enjoy all that our hobby offers. I know some people think it's unethical to buy used or use Gamefly but I honestly don't know how else you could play all the great games that are offered. Everything I did I did legally and I still gave the game companies plenty of dough. The other problem I had this year was finding time to play all the games I wanted to. I loved my time with "Enslaved" but when I was playing in the back of my mind I just kept thinking about all the XP I was missing out on in "Halo: Reach." It's a tricky balancing act to figure out how to get the most out of the games you love. By mastering one, you can miss out on experiencing all that is out there. But that's a topic for another time.