The Economics of Gaming

MoneyWhen I was a kid, I remember lugging around a case of 20 or so NES games with me to my day care during the summer. The place that my brother and were imprisoned at had one bonus about it: a row of NES systems to keep the kids occupied, herded like sheep and left to stare bleating in front of small television screens.

Oddly enough there’s only thing to me that’s strange about this scenario. And no, it’s not the fact that I can’t even remember anything else about this period of my life except beating Mega Man 3 in front of onlookers, or the fact that the day care had all these NES units in the first place. The weirdest part of the whole thing for me? As a little kid, how did I afford to buy that many NES games for myself?

If there’s one drawback to this otherwise beloved hobby of ours, it’s that video games don’t grow on trees or drop out of the sky for our enjoyment. These little boxes of contained and bridled joy are ass expensive, especially when you add them up over time.

The reason that I’m even thinking about all this is because just this week, I got an E-mail from GameFly that troubled me. You see, I’ve been a member of the online game rental service since its early days. The E-mail was thanking me for this loyalty, which happened to be a term of 78 months. At just about $22 bucks per month and multiplied up, that comes out to a hefty sum of about $1600 dollars Americano. I could really only do one thing at this realization of my own investment: I vom’d in my mouth a little.

However, when you break that down to 6 1/2 years, it turns into about $240 per year, which really isn’t that awful when you think about it. Gaming can easily run between $500-$1000, depending on what kind of releases are out. Hell last year alone could have been one of those on the higher end, for instance. Complicated, no?

Money WasteBut it gets even more convoluted when I considered the fact that on top of this GameFly money-sink, I’ve also been purchasing anywhere between 4-6 games a year. Granted, some of those are chained together to form ultra combos of trade-it-in juice, but that still means I’m easily spending about $500 annually to play video games, or more. Even for a DINK (Dual Income No Kids) beneficiary like me, this is a stretch, so I can’t even imagine what it’s like for students. Come to think of it, I can’t even remember how I afforded to buy and play so many games back then.

As a result of all of this mathmetical-ism I’ve started to take a look at how I spend my money on video games. I’m convinced that I could be much more economical about the whole thing. Really, I’ve got lots of different options at my disposal. I could ditch my GameFly account altogether or simply lower it to one game to ensure that I still get to play those titles I’m curious about but don’t feel like buying. In addition, smart folks like JJ are good at finding great deals on Amazon or other used game outlets and turning them back around to produce more cash flow for the next purchase. I even have one friend who buys nearly everything he wants to play, beats it in week and immediately trades it back in, getting nearly full value for it.

I guess I’m writing all this because I’m still trying to decide what to do. It’s crazy how expensive it is to be obsessed with gaming, particularly if you like to just sample everything that’s available to you in order to find the right taste for your gaming palette. So basically, I want to know if you guys have a particular video game buying strategy, and what that happens to be? How do you handle the buying of your games, and on average, what would you say you spend on them?

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I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

12 thoughts on “The Economics of Gaming”

  1. Not meaning to self promote here, but selling games as soon as you beat them and know you won’t play them anymore to Gamestop is a really beneficial way to get back some cash. Usually by the time you done with a game and it’s collecting dust, you can turn around and sell it for 20-30 bucks, and if you trade it in groups of 3’s, you get an extra 10 bucks. If you keep your eyes on trade in deals like that (Gamestop often gives more credit for those who are putting the credit towards a popular new game preorder) you can find yourself paying a lot less. Just hold on to the classics and sell the rest. Also getting an Edge card seriously pays off.

  2. Yeah, SK Beans, I definitely took advantage of the extra trade-in credit deal that GameStop ran earlier this year and got myself an Edge card.

    My problem right now is that I have a lot of long games that I haven’t finished so I have nothing to trade in. I need to get off my ass and start finishing stuff!

  3. That JJ, only you can help yourself with haha. Also the Edge card gets you the Gameinformer, which is the basically the only gaming magazine that’s good anymore, they get world exclusives all the time without anything leaking on the internet.

  4. The problem I have is I sometimes wait a bit before I play a new game and then the Gamestop trade in value is garbage.

    Here’s what I do: For Xmas, I usually get 2-3 games. Throughout the year, I may buy 1 or 2 more.

    Then, using the Gamefly single game service, for only 16 bucks a month, I play all the games I know I won’t replay. I don’t buy a game unless I am sure I will keep it. I know my gaming habits well enough to be able to figure this out.

    This gives me time to play the gamefly games and in between, all the games I got for Xmas and buy. I’m very happy and I don’t spend a lot of money.

  5. Well for you dudes, I think one dirty thing would be to buy games at Wal-Mart, finish them, and then just bring it back and say “It doesn’t work”… They don’t ask any questions usually. There you go, free game.

    It’s no secret that I’m a PC gamer, so buying games I only do over Steam now, which leaves me no trading in or reselling options. Which means I only buy games I know I’ll love, played at a friends house (all 2 PC gamers I know IRL) or after I’ve “rented” it and tried it myself. There isn’t much other choice for me.

  6. I usually rent, unless there is a game i know for sure is a keeper like halo or COD, which generally adds up to 120-200 depending if i want to get spec. editions like the legendary with halo (Which im getting for Halo: Reach this fall) and with renting im just assuming it rounds out to 150 if im on a super roll and then the DLC, which is prolly $50 bucks max, so as much as its hefty on my Teenage income its about $400 at the max. lol I haz no life.

  7. For me, I tend to borrow games or buy old ones/used ones. But with the whole thing EA is doing, if I want all the extra stuffs, I gotta buy new. DAMN YOU EA!

    Annually, I’d say I drop $200-350 on games. And then you have the Xbox Live fee too. I wonder what else I could use that money for….

  8. I usually get 2-3 games at Christmas, maybe 1 on my birthday and, I dunno, 8+ games after? I get the odd one as a present (eg. Red Dead Redemption to celebrate the end of exams) but in all honesty I have NO idea where I get that much money.

  9. I’ve had a Steam account since 2006, and I buy my games almost exclusively through that. Tallied up, I’ve spent 1000 dollars or less (less when I figure in that I bought many of them on ridiculous sales or in money saving packs) and I have somewhere around 150 games on my account. I also bought Little Big Planet on the PS3, but besides that I don’t do a terrible lot of console gaming anymore.

  10. Three things, being a PC gamer means I only have to spend $50 on new releases, being a PC gamer I have Steam, and buying older games also helps

  11. Forgot to mention that trade in credit at Gamestop is tax free money, so that also helps.

  12. One thing I struggle with re: digital delivery is that you don’t have a physical product you can trade in or sell. This bothers me more for certain kinds of media.

    When it comes to videogames, I don’t mind under a certain price point, but if a game is $50 or $60 I want something that has a trade in value, mostly because once I finish a game I generally do not play it again.

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