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Stop Paying Full Price for Video Games!
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 like to buy a lot of games each year.
If you’re not the kind of gamer that needs the latest and greatest 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 at look back at some of the best games of 2016 and tracked how long it took for them to receive discounts after launch.
Video Game Price Drop Data
Final Fantasy XV
- Release date: 11/29/16
- First discount seen on Slickdeals 18 days after launch — $38.99 (Newegg)
- Additional discount seen on Slickdeals 21 days after launch — $34.99 (Amazon)
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
- Release date: 11/4/16
- First discount seen on Slickdeals same day as launch — $47.88 (Fry’s)
- Additional discount seen on Slickdeals 18 days after launch — $39.99 (GameStop)
- Release date: 5/13/16
- First discount seen on Slickdeals same day as launch — $44.99 (Newegg)
- Additional discount seen on Slickdeals 30 days after launch — $39.99 (Amazon)
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
- Release date: 5/10/16
- First discount seen on Slickdeals 9 days after launch — $48.99 (Amazon)
- Additional discount seen on Slickdeals 63 days after launch — $25 (Amazon)
- Release date: 10/21/16
- First discount seen on Slickdeals 3 days before launch (pre-order) — $49 (Newegg)
- Additional discount seen on Slickdeals 24 days after launch — $35 (Amazon)
- Release date: 5/24/2016
- First discount seen on Slickdeals same day as launch — $47.88 (Fry’s)
- Additional discount seen on Slickdeals 177 days after launch — $34.99 (Best Buy)
- Release date: 10/28/16
- First discount seen on Slickdeals 12 days after launch — $34.99 (Target)
- Additional discount seen on Slickdeals 16 days after launch — $29.99 (Walmart)
Madden NFL 17
- Release date: 8/23/16
- First discount seen on Slickdeals 16 days after launch — $39.99 (Amazon)
- Additional discount seen on Slickdeals 84 days after launch — $29.96 (Walmart)
- Release date: 11/11/16
- First discount seen on Slickdeals 12 days after launch — $34.99 (GameStop)
- Additional discount seen on Slickdeals 45 days after launch — $29.99 (GameStop)
Dark Souls 3
- Release date: 4/12/16
- First discount seen on Slickdeals 37 days after launch — $43.50 (Walmart)
- Additional discount seen on Slickdeals 91 days after launch — $34.99 (Amazon)
What We Learned
The $35 to $40 sweet spot usually hits around 2 weeks after launch
It goes without saying that the longer you wait, the deeper the discounts get. But lowered prices on games actually come surprisingly quickly. Almost all of the games we tracked could be had for less than $50 within 10 days of launch.
And within a month, the majority of titles received prices less than $40. This is a great time to buy because prices stick around the $35 to $40 range for some months following.
Only the most patient of gamers will wait for those rock-bottom $20 prices, since that usually takes several months. If you wait that long, the hype will have passed and online communities for most games will have tapered off, leaving only the hardcore (and typically highly skilled) core group. And who wants to wait that long? Not us.
Launch day discounts are not uncommon
It may come as more of a surprise that retailers are actually willing to offer meaningful discounts on games right on launch day. Three of the above titles saw discounts on day one. Fry’s and Newegg both offered discounts dipping below $50 for brand new games.
This is fantastic news if you don’t like the idea of shelling out $99 up front for the popular Amazon Prime pre-order discounts.
Amazon tops other retailers for game deals
Amazon accounts for almost half of all the discounts we found for the above games. 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 new games by 20% right from launch.
Walmart is also great for gaming deals. The key here 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.
Games with disappointing sales figures get better discounts
Titanfall 2 is a game that commanded huge pre-release hype, but didn’t perform quite as well commercially as expected. This type of game is perfect for gamers on a budget because, as the data shows, deep discounts come quickly as retailers and game publishers aim to boost sales.
Within a little more than two weeks, Titanfall 2 could be had for less than $30. What a steal!
Xbox One beats PS4 for deals
If you scour Slickdeals discounts for console games, it may strike you that Xbox One game discounts appear to be more numerous than PS4 ones. 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.
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, a PC is the way to go. Obviously, the barrier-to-entry for buying a decent PC setup (or building your own) is an issue, 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 insanely low prices so regularly that it’s almost difficult to buy a full-price game from them.
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 that fantastic 20% discount on pre-orders, and innumerable exclusive discounts across games in general. If you buy a lot of games, these subscriptions are a no-brainer.
PlayStation Plus / Xbox Live Gold subscriptions
Both Xbox and PlayStation charge gamers $60 per year for their 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 titles on a weekly basis.
It could be argued that, even if you never play games online, both these subscriptions are worth considering just for the discounts and free stuff alone.
Free-to-play is thriving
Not so long ago, the term ‘free-to-play’ meant ‘cheap and nasty’. Today, the notion that free-to-play titles are inherently poor quality is an outdated and archaic one thanks to the rise of several premium, triple-A games that have adopted the free-to-play business model with great success.
Without spending a penny, you can get hundreds of hours out of massive games like "League of Legends," "Star Wars: The Old Republic," "Killer Instinct," "War Thunder" and more. And the free-to-play scene is only getting stronger, with games like "Quake Champions" on the horizon.
Buy Digital Download codes
The advent of digital download stores such as Steam, Xbox Live and the PlayStation Store have given rise to a collection of retailers and services that offer great discounts on games that are delivered to you in the form of a simple redeem code.
It pays to be weary of the source of such codes (random eBay accounts are probably not the safest choice,) but reputable stores like Green Man Gaming can be great for gaming on on the cheap.
Images courtesy of PlayStation, Xbox.