There are three major sites I use for digital game purchases. Humble, Steam, and GoG. With the coming of Christmas, I’ve been looking at these sources and counting my pennies. In this process, I’ve learned a few cheap tricks for acquiring games cheap to take the sting out of Christmas.
First things first, my advice is try not to buy indies on discount. Certainly not if the indie is new! Now of course, you are fully within your rights to make the economic decision that benefits you the best – but indie games are often pressured to heavy discounts earlier than they should, which cuts into a studio’s profits, when that studio is already cutting close to the bone to make the game in the first place. For this reason I try to make sure if I buy a game discounted lately, I check to see if that game’s at least a year old.
Second, AAA games have hit something of a plateau. Dishonored is basically as good a game as came out in 2014, and it’s two years old. It will sometimes get discounted to $10, and that’s definitely a game worth owning! The same is true of Far Cry 3 or Fallout: New Vegas or a host of games from the PS3 generation. I don’t just mean retro games, I mean that even slightly old AAA games are basically as good as anything totally new. Don’t forget those games!
Now, as for specific venues:
Steam lets you buy a game and send it to your inventory rather than putting it into your library. This is a useful trick to know! When there are major sales, just do a quick sweep to see if any of your friends’ stuff is super cheap, and if it is, grab it and pop it in your inventory to give away. I did this with The Last Remnant a few years ago – and it wound up being a gift I could give a friend.
GoG does not have a good wishlist function. You can’t check your friends’ wishlists, and you can’t buy a game for a friend based on it being there. Simply put, the GoG wishlist is a vestigal organ. GoG gifts therefore are a little trickier to buy ahead of time. You can if you make the game a gift to a proxy email address for your friend and only give them the email later, but that’s very complicated.
Humble bundles are amazing. I have to be careful here, because, as I said, sometimes Humble pressures indie games into discounts before they’re ready? But modern bundles have a gift button for the steam games in the bundle, and some bundles – just the whole bundle – are really good for only a dollar or more. When a particularly good bundle (2-3 games I know are good in the lower bracket) goes on sale, if I can, I pick up 5-6 copies of it, so I can share the games as gifts later.
Hopefully these tricks will help you save money and let you give gifts you’d like to later!