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Savvy Spenders: Why Waiting to Buy Games Can Be the Smarter Option

It's that time of year again. As the holiday seasons approaches and gamers and critics post their annual "X Reasons I'm Going to Be Broke in 20xx" lists for the world to see, I have to wonder how many of them will actually forfeit all the cash they talk about spending. Americans are living off a sore economy, and while contributing to its health with regular purchases is a basic step to recovery, anyone on a budget needs to consider practical money-saving tips. Video games aren't exactly food on the table.

While you shouldn't break your wallet in half with the heft of buying too many games, you don't have to abandon it entirely. Below are five reasons why waiting to buy a game can save you heartache and money plus five tips to get the most out of your cash.

New Games Are Expensive

The first reason is the most obvious: new games aren't cheap. We're talking $60 plus tax, and money down if you're preordering. With hot titles flying off the shelves, wanting them all is easy. If you're absolutely intent on buying games during their release week, you can still make smart choices that will go gentle on your bank account.

First, make a list of every game coming out that you want. Then think carefully about which ones are must-haves and which ones are sheer curiosities. For example, I'm interested in both Skyrim and Uncharted 3, which are due out this November. Considering I'm a bigger fan of Uncharted than The Elder Scrolls and have the games to prove it, I'll probably get more out of Drake's Deception if I'm forced to choose only one of them. Since I like to focus on one single-player game at a time anyway, I can play Uncharted 3 and enjoy it endlessly, and then go back to the store for a hopefully discounted copy of Skyrim. It just makes more sense to restrict your number of purchases, whether or not you plan on getting them on day one.

Hyped Games Can Be Bad

We've all been there. We get dangerously excited for a game only to discover it sucks, and wish we would have spent our money on something better. That's the great thing about reviews: they're there to help gamers decide which games are worth playing and which ones aren't. Websites like Metacritic, especially, give potential customers a useful breakdown of a game's value by grouping together scores from various reliable sources. Aggregate scores put more power and information in reach of gamers, so buying a game doesn't have to be a gamble.

Reviews will hit the web fast, so even waiting a few days can pay off big. As for preorders? As long as you're 100% sure you're going to like a game no matter how good or bad the critics say it is, then there's no harm in buying early.

More Help Is Available

This one's pretty simple, but let's face it. Who doesn't use GameFAQs or a similar help site? Most of us have looked up a walkthrough or item guide at least once, either for a quick point in the right direction or juicy secrets, and some of us do it more than others. I'm probably among the few who still prefers to labor in frustration for hours rather than type in the website's address for an easy answer to a stupid puzzle or gameplay mechanic, but to each her own.

Games Have Problems

Many times when games launch, developers play catch-up for weeks or even months trying to patch every nasty bug that sours the gameplay experience. Even nowadays, advances in technology are no protection from this recurring production problem. Only multiple updates can smooth over these truly rough (sometimes humorously so) edges.

Take the recent Dead Island, for instance. Players have reported such issues as AI-controlled guides snagging on the scenery and upgraded projectiles disappearing along with the bodies of downed foes—before those weapons can be retrieved and used again. Even if you're fine with the unique situations these glitches propose, the patient gamer who waits to buy will learn of a title's ugly secrets and can then decide whether or not they're an obstacle worth facing.

Companies Make Bad Decisions

Games can be bad, but sometimes, the hardware they're played on can be worse. In that case, you're dealing not with the mistakes of the developers, but with those of the company in charge of that console or handheld. Think of Nintendo. Fans are in an uproar over their poor decision-making skills of late, and the 3DS is at the root of the backlash. One cause for all the anger is the notorious price drop—from a whopping $250 to $170 within a mere year of release. The result? Early buyers feel price-gouged.

The lesson is that sometimes waiting to buy new hardware can be just as advantageous as waiting to buy new titles—not that it's any fault of the gamer's that companies like Nintendo would make such shocking decisions so early on in a system's lifetime.

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