SINGAPORE - Going by the attractive people having lots of fun in this Nintendo Switch advertisement at the Super Bowl, the gaming giant’s upcoming portable-console hybrid looks pretty cool.
The Nintendo Switch is essentially a gaming tablet that you can play on the go, before coming home, plugging it into a dock and continuing where you left off on a big screen. It’s tearing down the walls between portable and home console games - everything can be played anywhere.
In Singapore, however, you’ll have to fork out close to $700 to virtually milk a cow with a friend (no, really, check out 1-2-Switch).
Hardware Zone reports that ahead of the official March 3 worldwide launch date, Singapore video game retailers are charging prices ranging from $619 to $699 for Switch bundle pre-orders of different configurations.
Some gaming purchases need deep pockets, especially with Sony and Microsoft subverting the usual “console generation” release schedule (think the clear progression from PlayStation, to PlayStation 2, then 3, and 4) with more frequent incremental upgrades.
For example, Sony recently released a $599 “Pro” version of the PlayStation 4, just three years after the original was launched in 2013, after a seven-year drought between the third and fourth iterations of the popular console.
A little bit of money can sometimes go a long way, if you know where to look.
1. Free games
“Free-to-play” - the most beautiful three words to a budget-conscious gamer. It is easy, in this day and age, to spend thousands of hours playing a game, whether on a computer, console or mobile, and not fork out a single cent.
Just look at Dota 2 on Steam, which has consumed more waking hours than most devotees care to admit. The game’s full complexities are free for everyone to explore (and be intimidated by), unlike competitors which offer some characters for free, while putting others behind a paywall.
These games still make money by offering cosmetic items for sale, or some other consumable to buy within the game’s ecosystem. But if you’re happy with what you get for free, and have time to spare, you don’t have to spend.
They’ve been around for a while now, but bundles haven’t stopped being one of the best ways to get a bunch of games for cheap.
Humble Bundle pioneered the concept in 2010, offering a selection of indie games for any price, with some of the proceeds going to charity.
It is still the premier bundle site. Its latest offering, the Humble Freedom Bundle, asks for at least US$30 (S$43) for a huge bundle of games and ebooks worth US$600.
Proceeds will be donated, depending on the buyer, to one or all of these non-profit organisations: American Civil Liberties Union, the International Rescue Committee, or Doctors Without Borders. Almost US$4 million has been raised since the bundle was launched on Tuesday (Feb 14).
The games in the bundle are generally excellent, but even US$30 is considered pricey as far as bundles go. Another bundle that is offered at the same time, the Star Wars Humble Bundle 3, for example, has four Star Wars games for just US$1.
Bottom line: sites like Humble Bundle and Bundle Stars offer a lot of gaming for not much money.
3. Subscription services
Letting a subscription service choose what to play for you could well make your life easier.
If you own a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One, there’s a decent chance that you’ve considered at some point subscribing to PlayStation Plus ($43.90 a year) or Xbox Live Gold ($84.90 a year).
That somewhat hefty price isn’t just for the privilege of allowing you to play with people online. Both PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold give its subscribers “free” games every month, which means that if you’re happy to let your gaming be decided for you, you don’t have to spend much more.
PS Plus has Sony titles LittleBigPlanet 3 and Until Dawn right now, with indies Spelunky and Not A Hero. Xbox Live Gold has cooperative indie Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime, racing game Project Cars and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
Humble Bundle has something similar called the Humble Monthly Bundle, where US$12 a month gets you a mystery bundle of games. The curation has been on point so far, with a mix of high-profile games like XCOM 2 and Total War: Warhammer, and acclaimed indies like Abzu and Rocket League.
4. Trade or sell your games
If you’re not planning on replaying a game or not interested in a collection, why not move it along to someone else and recoup a bit of cash?
No prizes for guessing what you can do at GameTrader.sg (you can sell games there too). And popular local listings app Carousell is a prime place to put stuff up for sale as well.
A quick glance at GameTrader listings shows recent blockbusters like Final Fantasy XV going for $50, when a brand new copy from retailer PLAYe goes for $79.90.
5. Have patience
It can be tough to resist buying the latest high-profile game that everyone is playing, but give it just a few months and chances are that you’ll be able to pick it up for a lot cheaper.
First-person action shooter Doom came out in May 2016 for $79 on Steam. By July, it was briefly discounted to $47, and in December, it went as low as $26.
Keep track of when a game goes on discount by adding it to your Steam wishlist, which sends you an e-mail alert when the price is cut.
Sites like IsThereAnyDeal keep track of discounts across a host of digital stores, because Steam isn’t always the cheapest place to buy a game.
Free browser extension Enhanced Steam could also save you a few bucks. Among the host of features it adds to the Steam store is a display showing the historical lowest price of a game, and the current lowest price, ensuring you don’t overpay for a game you could get cheaper somewhere else.