I buy a lot of games. For anyone who has been reading my work for a sustained amount of time, this may have been obvious: but I wanted to state for the record that a great deal of my income is spent on videogames and the odd peripheral. My loving wife has long been supportive of my habit, but when I pause and reflect on the last few years, it's almost scary to think how much cash that I've shelled out on anything from latest releases to dust-collecting consoles and peripherals (Wii and Kinect: I'm looking at you). New releases for consoles can cost three figure sums, and the price of collector's editions can be as much as a console!
Thankfully, I discovered some legal means of reducing this expenditure; and by reduce, I mean save as much as half on each game that I buy. I'm not buying a smaller quantity of games, mind you: just getting more for about the same amount of money. Grey importing and online retail have allowed for me to enjoy all of the latest games - and in some case, tech - for a fraction of the price. I thought that I'd share a few sites that I swear by, as well as those that require some careful consideration before jumping in:
· ozgameshop (www.ozgameshop.com): These guys have never done me wrong. Based in the UK, they offer games and peripherals for all current consoles and portables for a fraction of the Australian retail price. If you're happy to wait a few weeks or months after release, you can pick up some genuine bargains on collector's editions and other unnecessary - but somehow necessary - items. Orders usually take about two weeks to reach Australia, and their response to email queries is always prompt; so you'll never lose sleep wondering what happened to your hard-earned cash. Free postage is offered on all orders and prices are displayed in Australian dollars.
· Steam (www.steampowered.com): Some speak of Steam as though it is a great evil than cannot be trusted. I look at Steam as a paid-for Christmas that arrives with daily, mid-week, weekend and seasonal promotions that can't be bested by any retailer on this list. Sure, you can moan about how the game is never truly yours, but twenty-seven dollars for all three Assassin's Creed games was enough for me to dismiss any argument against Valve's eCommerce monster. The only downside is the occasional - becoming frustratingly more frequent - instance of "region pricing," where publishers opt to charge a higher price to Australian users. Ninety-nine US dollars for Modern Warfare 3 is just plain greedy Activision: with or without the free copy of CoD4. All prices are displayed in US dollars.
· Play Asia (www.play-asia.com): Another provider of great repute, Play Asia sell everything from consoles to action figures. They sell different region copies of each new release, so provided that you don't mind Chinese text on your box art, you'll often be able to save even more. If you're buying games for region-locked consoles, the individual product listings will advise whether games are compatible with your console (3DS and Wii games are a no-go, AAA 360 releases are often region free). While you have to pay for postage, there are options for every budget and level of mania. By this I mean that I always shell out the extra dough for FedEx delivery (which takes about three days to reach you). Play-Asia's customer service team respond to enquiries quickly and amending/cancelling orders is easy as pie. All prices are displayed in US dollars.
· Green Man Gaming (www.greenmangaming.com): This site offers Steam keys for PC games and - in some cases - also allow for games to be played via their own downloader, Capsule. They usually offer fifteen percent off pre-orders and also regularly distribute vouchers which can take as much as an additional twenty percent off their already low prices. For some older titles, there is even the ability to trade-in your digital copy. I've never used the system before, and the trade in values aren't great, but it is another way to save even more dosh. They don't have an expansive range, but they are signing up more publishers, and offering more games with each passing week. For Australian customers, all prices are displayed in US dollars.
· The Hut (http://www.thehut.com/games.dept): Now I've only shopped once with this site, but the transaction was extraordinary. I ordered Dungeon Siege III (X360) for just over twenty bucks. My game didn't arrive within the designated timeframe, and all I had to do was notify their courteous team for a replacement to be sent out. No fuss, no extra conditions, no probing questions: better service than you'd receive at any brick-and-mortar store. They have regular specials and "two for" promos that are well worth checking out. I should note that they also sell brand name clothes, toys, DVDs and Blu-Rays as well. No charge for postage, and all prices are displayed in GBP.
Buyer Beware (but still worth a look)
· CDKEYSHERE (http://www.cdkeyshere.com/): This site sells CD keys for Steam, Origin, GFWL and more at certifiably-insane prices. "How insane?" I hear you ask. How about Warhammer 40K: Space Marine for 25 US dollars? That crazy enough for you? It was batty enough for me to jump, grabbing Call of Duty: Black Ops for less than twenty bucks as well; but then I read the fine-print. No problems with Space Marine, but Black Ops was another kettle of fish. It was the Russian version, and if I wanted to redeem the key, I needed to have a Russian VPN, or give these guys my Steam login: neither was on the cards. Thankfully, after a minimum of fuss, they gave me a refund, but this served as a powerful lesson: read the fine-print!
· G2Play (http://www.g2play.net/store/): I haven't used these guys yet, but it looks as though they are running a similar operation to CDKEYSHERE. Read the fine-print, people!
A quarter of the retail price? Surely you jest, my Lord.
Any vendors of choice that I may have missed? Do you buy online, or are you still a bricks-and-mortar player?
Important, potentially-heartwarming, Dutch note: Congratulations to regular Friday contributor, Dawson on his brand-new bundle of joy, Bradley David. Best wishes to Tim, Sherri, Libby and the newest addition to the Dawson family!