Arts & CultureVideo Games

The ultimate winter gaming buyer’s guide

The winter season is known for many things: spending time with family, the holiday spirit and most recently, really cheap video games. Yes, it’s that time of year again, where the big companies and distributors throw out their greatest deals, and gamers struggle to decide what’s more important — a pile of new games or paying rent.

Luckily, we’ve put together this handy buyer’s guide to help you get the best value for your dosh and hopefully keep food on your table for the rest of the school year. This guide is primarily focused on PC gaming and distributors like Steam and the Humble Store, but plenty of these rules can be applied to console stores as well.

Make a budget going in

The best way to curb your spending is to set a limit in advance. Knowing exactly how much you’re willing to spend can keep you constantly aware of your dwindling resources. It will help you make those big and small decisions that are the difference between half a dozen ‘meh’ games and one or two great ones.

Don’t spend preemptively

If you’re counting on some holiday money from your relatives to pad out your gaming budget, don’t spend it before it’s in your hands. As the gamer in a family, there’s a good chance you’re considered “hard to shop for” and might be used to wads of cash in lieu of actual gifts, but you never know when your family might choose to go the extra mile and try to find something tangible you’ll actually like. Don’t put yourself in the position to be disappointed by their efforts.

Scope out what you want in advance

Make yourself a list of games you know you’ll actually want and stick to it. It’s easy to get a bunch of games that are marked down 90 percent just because they’re cheap, but it adds up and soon you might realize you don’t have enough for that big title that you were actually excited for.

Only get what you know you’ll play

It never fails. You’ll spend a $100 on new games and less than a month later you return to the one you’ve already clocked 300+ hours on. Some of your new acquisitions will be destined to remain unplayed if you make frivolous purchases. Keep a handle on how much time you’ll have to devote to a game throughout the year and weigh that into your decision to pick up a new title. There are few things more cringeworthy than a library full of games with zero hours played.

Don’t get roped into promotional nonsense

Steam is notorious for bogging down its holiday sale with all sorts of unnecessary promotional schemes. From holiday trading cards to team-based spending competitions, it’s all just fluff to get you to spend more money. You’re here for the games, not all the worthless ‘extras.’ Flash sales have already gone the way of the dodo, so there’s a good chance Steam itself has started going with this mentality.

There will be other sales

The winter/Christmas sales might be the biggest of the year for all things gaming, but there will always be more. Distributors like Steam have a big sale every season, as well as weekend and mid-week sales all year round. Humble bundle offers great deals on games both weekly and monthly and has cheap classics all the time. With a student’s busy schedule, one or two new games should be more than enough to last until next year comes around.

Reports say that this year’s sales will start on Dec. 22, so good luck and happy hunting.

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Mathew Brock

Mathew Brock