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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Gaming on a Budget; 3 ways to become a more thrifty gamer

These days, considering the economy, the rapid pace at which new video games and video game systems are being released, and the overall cost of keeping up with the latest games, it goes without saying that trying to stay at the forefront of such development can be taxing on your wallet.  Throwing down $60 for a new 360 title, upgrading your PC with various parts to run the latest computer games, even playing a few months of a pay-to-play MMO are just a few of the large costs that can become part of an average gamer’s life.  Today I want to share a few ways in which we gamers can alleviate the financial pain of being modern gamers and hopefully steer the industry in a more economically viable direction.

1. OnLive, Gamefly, and other monthly services.
By now I’m sure most gamers have seen ads and commercials for services like Gamefly that, for a small monthly fee, allow them to rent games similar to what services like NetFlix and RedBox do for movies.  While paying a monthly fee is always a bit dicey in terms of cost vs. worth, even I have to admit that paying ten to fifteen dollars a month for unlimited access to titles that would normally run me $60 a pop sounds like a good deal.
An even better deal can be had with the relatively new service known as OnLive which, like Gamefly, allows users to pay a monthly fee for access to a library of over 90 games but with a few added benefits.  If paying a monthly fee isn’t your thing, OnLive members can opt to make free accounts with which they can try out pretty much every game OnLive has to offer (they have a renewable 30-minute restricted trial for their games) and free users can still purchase certain titles without signing up for the monthly plan (though the monthly plan does give discounts on purchasing full games).
Since OnLive is a digital service, you can play the games you rent or buy right away without having to wait for actual physical copies to be shipped and delivered.  You can also peek in on what other OnLive members are playing at any time and social features such as voice chat and friends lists mean it’s easy to stay connected with other members.
The biggest benefit of all though is that because OnLive is pioneering a new digital streaming service called “Cloud”, it allows you to play newer games on a PC that normally couldn’t run them.  I myself do most of my gaming on a six-year old laptop and, thanks to OnLive, can enjoy titles like Borderlands, F.E.A.R. 3, Homefront, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution with the same level of quality as if I were playing them on an Xbox 360.   
Whether you’re a console gamer, a PC gamer, or a bit of both, services such as OnLive and Gamefly can be worthy alternatives if you don’t feel like constantly burning through large sums of cash on games that you’ll most likely beat in a week or two.  And since such services almost always have free trials of their own, you really don’t have anything to lose from giving them a shot.

2. Trade-Ins.
If you’re like me it probably doesn’t take you too long to amass a small collection of games that, while fun when you first got them, have started collecting dust on your shelf.  As I mentioned earlier, the video game industry is an ever-evolving thing with new games being released at a fairly steady pace.  Fortunately, stores such as Gamestop and E.B. games offer trade-in programs that allow customers to turn in their old games for credit towards future purchases.
Turning in a few games here and there can really alleviate the cost if you’ve had your eye on a new title but you’re a bit strapped for cash.  Even better, these trade-in programs usually come with additional benefits as well such as savings and discounts on certain products and free subscriptions to gaming magazines.  So if you’re looking for a way to enjoy some of the newer games out there while also keeping your bank account happy, the solution might be lying right on your shelf nearby.

3. F2P and Endless Trial MMO’s.
If MMO games are more your thing you too can benefit from being more thrifty with your choices.  While there are still a healthy number of pay-to-play (P2P) MMO’s out there, many MMO development companies are seeing the added potential in adopting a free-to-play (F2P) revenue model.  MMO’s like Lord of the Rings Online, Guild Wars, Dungeons & Dragons Online, and City of Heroes can all be enjoyed at little to no cost and they allow you to sort of pick and choose which sort of content you have access to or which optional features you’d like to have.
While some may be more comfortable which just paying a flat monthly rate for access to everything, you’d be amazed at the sheer amount of content these F2P games can offer without having to pay a cent.  Even better, most of these F2P MMO’s also offer in-game reward systems that can be used to gain access to content you’d otherwise have to pay for.  While this option does normally take a bit of time and effort, it can pay off in the long run if you’re really striving to be a more economical gamer.
Even some of the more popular P2P MMO’s like World of Warcraft and Rift are testing the F2P waters, albeit with a slightly different approach.  What they have started doing is offering “endless free trials”, basically watered down or restricted versions of the full game that can be played for free.  Some may scoff at the limited amount of content available with these trials, but the amount of gameplay you can get out of them is actually quite generous considering the trials are free and endless.  Even better, these MMO’s allow you to upgrade to a full paid account if you desire while retaining all the work and progress you achieved during the trial.

I hope this article will help folks take at least some the burden off of living a gamer’s lifestyle.  If you do a little research and poking around, it’s amazing the sorts of ways in which you can still have a very active and entertaining gaming experience for fractions of the cost and maybe when developers see how much we gamers enjoy saving money, they’ll start working towards more cost-effective options of their own.

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