Each week I publish a huge list of PC game download sales, and have also recently started highlighting five of the best deals I can find each week. Last week one of the games was Civilization V, which Green Man Gaming had for $11.98 for a short time (ended early, sorry to those who waited). The listing had it as 70% off. However, other sites had it listed for $40 and at ~20% off. A quick look at the math says those two things don’t reconcile – because in one case the ‘regular’ price is $40, and in the other it is $50!
Likewise, if you wanted to buy LEGO Harry Potter today, you could go to GamersGate and get it for 25% off, for $22.46. Or … you could pay regular price at Direct2Drive and get it for $19.99!
It is all about understanding the flow of regular and sale pricing and tracking prices over time – it is a lot of work, but worth it to extract the best value. On AppShopper (for iOS apps), I love how there is a ‘history’ list, showing updates and price changes. You can use this to see if that $9.99 game goes on sale once a month for $4.99 and therefore wait for the price drop.
One reason I love Deals4Downloads is just that – they show you pricing and % off, but also have the same game listed across sites and the lowest recorded price for a game. The only caveat is that if a site has a slightly different listing (like Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4 (PC) versus Lego Harry Potter (PC)), then it will be listed separately – but they also address this by having a bunch of ‘related titles’ to help you.
The image at the top is for Civilization V (Mac) today, with different regular prices across different sites. It is very informative and tells you not to pay full price since it was on sale for $16.98 a month ago. But what it doesn’t tell you is that on Steam the Mac and PC versions of Civilization V are the same, linked by the Steamworks system, meaning that owning one means owning both. If you go to GamersGate or Direct2Drive you might only get one or the other – I say ‘might’ since in the case of The Sims Medieval I only got the PC version, whereas for Two Worlds II GamersGate gave me both.
Pricing of games used to make some sense – there was a period of full price, then the price would gradually drop off. Things are different now – there is almost always a 10% off pre-sale (or you get added stuff), then within two weeks there is at least a 10% post-sale, and within two months you will definitely see 25% sales or more!
And it isn’t always clear what strings are attached – Steam requires occasional online connection and permanently links a game to your account, but allows a one-click install. Impulse has separate download and install, but the client isn’t needed to play games – and the same is true with GamersGate and Direct2Drive. More and more systems are like Steam – Green Man Gaming’s Capsule, EA’s Origin, Games for Windows Live, and on and on. Some work on Mac and PC, others are Mac only or PC only. Some are direct installs, other require you to download an installer. Some patch automatically, others require you to track patches .. and on and on and on!
My buying advice? Ask yourself some critical questions:
- Is this a ‘buy it now, you fool!’ deal like when Games for Windows Marketplace had Age of Empires III for $0.10?!?! Just buy it!
- When do I plan to play this? If not ‘right away’, consider holding off!
- Was the game available for less previously? If the difference is significant, consider waiting?
- Is the game more than 5 years old and selling for $4.99 or less? Just buy it already!
- Did you buy the game on CD and never play it and now it is lost? Take the hint and skip it!
- Will it run on my PC/Mac? Most important for newer or older games – check the forums on the service if possible or do a search.
- Is this a pre-order / new release? Will I play right away? Have I maximized my savings/added content? Can I wait a month for the big sale?
More and more digital retailers are looking for a chunk of your money, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to figure out if something is a good deal. Arm yourself with information and make the most of your gaming dollar!