Gaming is an increasingly expensive hobby; in 2016 the traditional fixed console cycle is coming to an end with Microsoft’s Scorpio and Sony’s PS4 Pro consoles. nVidia’s 1000-series and AMD’s 400-series GPUs are providing graphical and computational power at relatively affordable prices that only a few years ago would be out of reach of almost everyone. However with the recent vote to leave the EU even the lower ends of these ranges are less financially appealing.
The intention behind this series of articles is to discuss getting the most pretend bang for your actual buck, including hidden gems in sales and noteworthy bundles. This will also involve looking at free-to-play games across the PC and console environments. Since games like The Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online blazed the trail for western games to adopt this open business model which had previously been derided as only for grind-heavy Asian MMOs, many games have taken this approach to get as many players through the door as possible. Even previously stalwart subscription-only games like World of Warcraft have adopted it in a limited fashion instead of the traditional 14-day free trial, and EVE Online has followed suit. There are many games vying for your attention, time and ultimately money. Previously almost exclusive to PC both Microsoft and Sony have begun to embrace this model with ports of games like Star Trek Online, Neverwinter and Warframe.
(Disclaimer: neither I nor this website are sponsored by any of the sites mentioned in this post and none of the links are referral links.)
Steam has established itself as the biggest social and commercial hub for PC gaming, however you don’t have to buy games directly through its store to play games which make use of its social/connectivity features, which is where opportunities to save money come in. One way to do this is to buy a physical copy of a PC game and activate the included cd key, which apart from games like World of Warcraft or League of Legends is almost always through Steam. At this point the disc is fundamentally useless as it will be out of date after the first downloadable update.
This method is the least common for several reasons. Perhaps as a result of the prominence of Steam physical PC retail has withered to almost nothing. In most GAME stores the PC section consists of expensive Razer peripherals, some boxed copies of The Sims and a small selection of Steam wallet cards. PC games can’t be traded in so there is no reason to stock any more than the bare minimum. This means that the “game” itself is purely a string of numbers and letters you plug into Steam. This has led to a range of key-selling sites; from legitimate and authorised re-sellers of digital-only keys to ones which buy physical games in bulk just for the keys to ones whose authenticity is less clear. The sheer number of these sites has bred relatively healthy price competition which often result in better deals than Steam’s previously legendary sales.
Green Man Gaming is an authorised key seller with frequent sales and better discounts to registered users.
The unfortunately-named Gamersgate is another site that I used to buy from but haven’t done for a while. They have a rewards/points program that builds up credit for future purchases.
Direct2Drive is one of the oldest key retailers, I haven’t used them for a while but they have been around forever.
CDKeys.com are often and consistently cheaper than steam sales all the time and a great source of steam wallet money as well as PSN and Xbox Live if you use their 5% discount for liking them on Facebook.
A few sites I used to use still technically exist but are less popular than they used to be/are suspiciously inactive. Game Keys Now pride themselves on transparency and showing how they get their stock, however there have been no new releases available for a long time. Simply CD Keys has been re-absorbed into the main site of Simply Games.
Another source of incredibly cheap games is the “bundle” ecosystem. Kickstarted by Humble Bundle, these are collections of games sold at significant discounts or on a pay-what-you-want model. Often the proceeds of these bundles go to charities to further incentivise you to take part. Other sites like Bundlestars have launched to provide similar discounted packs of games. Humble Bundle even have their own store with frequent sales too.
As a final point its probably worth addressing the elephant in the room, G2A and Kinguin. They are both prominent sponsors of eSports and YouTubers and I’ve used them a couple of times but have heard conflicting reports/anecdotal evidence of dodgy dealings going on behind the scenes. I can’t confirm or deny these reports, but have steered clear of them for a long time. Your mileage may vary but it is something to be aware of.