Stop Paying Full Price for Video Games!

If you're paying full price, you're doing it wrong, and that doesn't mean you need to wait years for a price drop.

Advertiser Disclosure: At Slickdeals, we work hard to find the best deals. Some products in our articles are from partners who may provide us with compensation, but this doesn’t change our opinions.

Even at full price, video games offer excellent value in terms of cost-per-hour of entertainment. But with the typical asking price of $60 for new games, it can be an expensive hobby if you’re trying to stay on top of all the year’s biggest releases.

If you’re not the kind of gamer who needs the every game right on launch day, one of the best ways to save is by waiting for retailers to introduce post-launch discounts. But how long do you have to wait and how much can you save? To find out, we took a look back at some of the best games of 2018 and 2019 to see how long it took for them to receive discounts after launch.

Video Game Price Drop Data

Red Dead Redemption II

  • Release date: October 26th, 2018
  • Pre-order Discount: No discounts offered
  • First Discount seen on Slickdeals: 3 months and 18 days after launch — $39.99 (Amazon)
  • Additional Discount seen on Slickdeals: 6 months and 19 days after launch — $34.99 (Walmart)

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4

  • Release date: October 12th, 2018
  • Pre-order Discount: Yes, $12 off with Gamers Club Unlocked Discount and $10 Best Buy Rewards Certificate (Best Buy)
  • First Discount seen on Slickdeals: 1 day after launch — $43.99 (Newegg via Ebay)
  • Additional discount seen on Slickdeals: 5 months and 14 days after launch — $29.99 (Amazon)

Marvel’s Spider-Man

  • Release date: September 7th, 2018
  • Pre-order Discount: Yes, $10 off (Costco)
  • First Discount seen on Slickdeals: 5 months and 6 days after launch — $39.99 (Best Buy)
  • Additional Discount seen on Slickdeals: 8 months and 30 days after launch — $19.99 (Amazon)

NBA 2K19

  • Release date: September 7th, 2018
  • Pre-order discount: No discount offered
  • First Discount seen on Slickdeals: 1 month and 22 days after launch — $36.75 (Game Deal Daily)
  • Additional Discount seen on Slickdeals: 1 month and 24 days after launch — $29.99 (DealGuru via Mass Genie)

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

  • Release date: December 7th, 2018
  • Pre-order Discount: No discount offered
  • First Discount seen on Slickdeals: 27 days after launch — $38.99 (Newegg)
  • Additional Discount seen on Slickdeals: 2 months and 16 days after launch — $29.99 (Amazon)

Kingdom Hearts III

  • Release date: January 25th, 2019
  • Pre-order Discount: Yes, $12 off with Gamers Club Unlocked Discount and $10 Best Buy Rewards Certificate (Best Buy)
  • First Discount seen on Slickdeals: 3 months and 17 days after launch — $24.99 (Amazon)

Madden NFL 19

  • Release date: August 10th, 2018
  • Pre-order Discount: Yes, $12 off with Gamers Club Unlocked Discount and $10 Best Buy Rewards Certificate (Best Buy)
  • First Discount seen on Slickdeals: 2 months and 15 days after launch — $39.99 (Amazon)
  • Additional Discount seen on Slickdeals: 5 months and 8 days after launch — $26.40 (Microsoft Store)

Battlefield V

  • Release date: November 9th, 2018
  • Pre-order Discount: Yes, $12 off with Gamers Club Unlocked Discount and $10 Best Buy Rewards Certificate (Best Buy)
  • First Discount seen on Slickdeals: 13 days after launch — $46.99 (Ebay)
  • Additional Discount seen on Slickdeals: 27 days after launch — $35.99 (Microsoft Store)

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

  • Release date: September 14th, 2018
  • Pre-order Discount: Yes, $12 off with Gamers Club Unlocked Discount and $10 Best Buy Rewards Certificate (Best Buy)
  • First Discount seen on Slickdeals: 1 month and 18 days after launch — $38.99 (Newegg)
  • Additional Discount seen on Slickdeals: 1 month and 30 days after launch — $34.99 (PlayStation Store)

Pokemon: Let’s Go, Pikachu!

  • Release date: November 16th, 2018
  • Pre-order Discount: Yes, $12 off (DealGuru via Mass Genie)
  • First Discount seen on Slickdeals: 3 days after launch $47.99 (Google Express)
  • Additional Discount seen on Slickdeals: 7 months 8 days after launch — $45.00 (Amazon)

What We Learned

It goes without saying that the longer you wait, the deeper the discounts get. But lowered prices on games aren’t coming as quickly as they used to. Some of the more popular games we tracked took several months to reach a significant discount. So what’s the deal? Let’s look at some of the factors in play and ways you can save even more.

The $35 to $40 sweet spot tends to crop up one to two months after launch

While it’s pretty easy to snag $10 off a game soon after its released, if you’re hoping to save 33% or more you’ll need to wait more than a couple weeks. Most of the games we tracked sold for $40 or less within two months of their release, and it seems like general reception is a good indicator of exactly how long you’ll need to wait. For example, Shadow of the Tomb Raider shipped about four million units in 2018 and was listed at $35 about seven weeks after launch. On the other end of the spectrum, Red Dead Redemption 2 sold about 17 million copies in the two weeks following its release, and it didn’t drop below $40 for over 6 months.

Disc-less gaming is impacting deals on physical copies
While it is gratifying to hold a physical copy of a game in your hands, the days of discs are sadly numbered. Digital downloads have become a big part of the way we get our games, and gaming companies are continuing to pivot in that direction.

There are definitely two sides to this coin, though. The bad news is digital games tend to hold their value longer, as they’re typically listed at full price ($59.99) unless they’re on sale. However, the plus side is game developers can discount their digital games more heavily due to lower production costs. We’ve seen examples of this throughout the summer with Microsoft’s Xbox Super Game Sale and the PlayStation Days of Play Sale.

Amazon tops other retailers for game deals
Amazon accounts for about half of all the discounts we found for the games we tracked. Clearly, the online retailer is hard to beat when it comes to prices. And that’s before considering Amazon Prime sales and pre-order bonuses, which slash most new games by almost 20% right from launch.

Walmart is also great for gaming deals. The key is to keep a close eye on Slickdeals around a game’s launch date, and then snap up any early sale copies before they sell out. Alternatively, check your local store to see if there’s a brick and mortar discount on the game you want — we’ve seen a lot of in-store only game deals at Walmart this year.

Related: Shopping for Video Games In-Store at Walmart Saves you Money

Games with disappointing sales figures get better discounts
Despite ranking 4th in game sales for its release month, Fallout 76 was one of the biggest flops of 2018 and is a prime example of the relationship between sales figures and discounts. Critics were not pleased with the game and within five days of its release, we saw prices as low as $40. The discounts continued in the following months as retailers tried to sweeten the deal by offering extra Fallout goodies.

Though this Fallout spinoff didn’t receive much praise, you could have formed your own opinion of the game for $30 just a month after its release.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, deals on well-performing games like Red Dead Redemption II are a bit harder to come by. It’s been nearly a year since its release and the game just hit the $30 sale mark in September 2019.

Xbox One beats PS4 for deals
If you scour Slickdeals discounts for console games, you may notice Xbox One game discounts appear to be more numerous than PS4 sales. This is likely because the PS4 has dominated Xbox One in the current gen console sales race.

The significantly smaller user base on Xbox means weaker sales for software, which is likely what gives rise to discounts on that platform sooner than the PS4 equivalents. If you’re still deciding on a console and know you can’t spend a ton on games, go with an Xbox One (you’ll also benefit from its backwards compatible Xbox 360 games library).

PC is king for cheap games 
Xbox One may be the better choice for devout console gamers, but if you want games at rock-bottom prices, PC is the way to go. Obviously, the barrier-to-entry for buying a decent PC setup (or building your own) is a lot steeper than dropping $200 on an Xbox, but if you can manage it, you won’t struggle to fill your hard drive with cheap games.

Sales on digital downloads are common and often dirt cheap. Sometimes new games are simply cheaper on PC (“Overwatch” launched at $40 on PC versus $60 on consoles). And digital platforms such as Steam and Origin run huge sales with ridiculously low prices so regularly it’s almost difficult to buy a full-price game from them. Whereas console game deals tend to taper off once the price drops below $5, it’s totally common to see full-fledged, AAA PC games from years past on sale for less than the price of a cup of coffee.

Related: Build a Gaming PC with Slickdeals

Additional Buying Tips

Get Amazon Prime or Best Buy Gamers Club Unlocked (GCU)
Best Buy offers one of the best discount programs for gamers. Gamers Club Unlocked costs just $30 for a two-year membership, which earns members 20% off new physical games, 10% off used games and a 10% bonus on trade-in credit.

Amazon Prime members ($99 per year) also benefit from a fantastic 20% discount on pre-orders, and innumerable exclusive discounts on games in general. If you buy a lot of games, these subscriptions are a no-brainer.

You Don’t Need to Pre-Order Every Game You Want Day One

Pre-ordering and getting a newly released game right on launch day may make you feel like the coolest kid in school. But there is always some risk to investing in a game before it comes out, especially if the pre-order is months in advance.

Many of the pre-order deals offered by Amazon Prime and Best Buy’s GCU members are pretty enticing. With a $12 discount and a $10 Best Buy Reward Certificate, you are looking at a new game for just about 35% off retail. But if the game is a total buzzkill, you may feel like you’ve thrown your money away. So it is important you look at your pre-order like an investment.

With any good investment, due diligence is key. Make sure you are caught up on the latest news and sneak peeks of the game. If previews don’t show actual gameplay (especially within a few months of release) that’s a major red flag, and you should always be skeptical of publishers who don’t give review copies to the press prior to launch day. Case in point — Bethesda announced it was going to stop offering early access to reviewers, then released Fallout 76 and Wolfenstein: Youngblood, two games that almost certainly didn’t live up to the pre-launch hype.

While the best deals tend to come early on, some retailers also offer pre-order deals a few days to a week before the release. With these, you can still expect to save around $10 for the game but you’ll have much more information to base your purchasing decision on.

Consider PlayStation Plus / Xbox Live Gold subscriptions
Both Xbox and PlayStation charge gamers for online gaming services. But — hurray for competition — both platforms push hard to sweeten the deal with free games every month and discount bonuses on dozens of weekly sale titles.

Generally speaking, having either of these memberships will get you an extra 10% off sale items. However, Xbox Live Gold has one major leg up over PlayStation Plus. While you have to maintain your subscription to access the free PlayStation Plus games in your collection, Xbox Live Gold lets you keep the free Xbox 360 games you download forever (though free Xbox One games follow the same rules as PlayStation Plus).

If you still enjoy 360 titles or want to flesh out your digital collection, keeping an Xbox Live Gold subscription is a great way to score 24 free games a year. Even if you never play games online, you’re still only paying about $2.50 per 360 game (assuming you paid the full $60 for a year of Gold) and you get temporary access to 24 more Xbox One games per year as a bonus.

Free-to-play is thriving
Not so long ago, the term “free-to-play” meant “cheap and nasty.” Today, that notion feels outdated and archaic thanks to the rise of several premium, triple-A games that have capitalized on the free-to-play business model to great success.

Without spending a penny, you can get hundreds of hours out of massive games like League of LegendsMinecraft Classic,  Killer Instinct, Fortnite and more. And the free-to-play scene is only getting stronger, with games like Quake Champions on the horizon.

Buy digital download codes
While you can definitely find some good sales from major retailers, the best deals usually entail buying a download code for a game from a third-party retailer. These codes are pretty bare-bones — they rarely come with pre-order bonuses and you’ll need to redeem them in a legit store before you can be sure they work — but if you go through a reputable site, you can save a boatload.

Take Gear of War: Ultimate Edition, which retails for $20. We’ve seen Microsoft discount the game to around $6 digitally, which is 75% off, but code sites can still do better than that. Right now, Gear of War: Ultimate is on sale at CDkeys for $3.69, nearly 50% lower than the best sale price we’ve ever seen on the official storefront.

It pays to be wary of the source of such codes (random eBay accounts are almost certainly an unwise choice), but reputable stores like CDkeys or Green Man Gaming can be great for gaming on on the cheap.

One surefire way to make sure you get a good deal on the game you want is to set a Deal Alert for it. If you do, we’ll let you know the second we hear about a good sale, so you’ll never miss out on a lowest ever price.

You also might like this hot video game deal from our Frontpage:

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Our editors strive to ensure that the information in this article is accurate as of the date published, but please keep in mind that offers can change. We encourage you to verify all terms and conditions of any product before you apply.

Mike Jackson

Mike Jackson has been writing for high-profile publications for 16 years, primarily in the video game industry, but also covering tech. Mike is an obsessed video game hoarder with hundreds of games spanning a 30-year collection. An entire room in his house is dedicated to Super Mario, and he thinks the Nintendo Switch is “the best invention in human history.” Counseling may be necessary.

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