Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone, but the memory of a great deal can keep you warm for years. Now that we’re past the point of no return on the holiday season, let’s reflect: What’s the best game-related deal you’ve ever come across? Was it online or in-store? Did you find it on Black Friday or in the midst of July? Did the spoils go to a loved one, or did you keep the loot for yourself? Dish!
Heck if I know. I'm not really a bargain-hunter type, to be honest. Sometimes people donate games to my archiving projects, which is awesome, but that's not the same thing at all.
There was a flea market I used to frequent back in the late ’90s, long before the retro gaming craze really took off. Even back then, certain NES and Super NES games were becoming fairly pricy (even though the Super NES was still a viable platform!); nothing like today, but $40-50 for certain loose games. There was one market stall that consisted of an old guy selling NES carts — all with a standard universal price of $5. I picked up some later Dragon Warrior titles and a few other interesting items over the course of a few months. That was pretty great.
Unfortunately, my sense of fair play eventually took over and I told him that he should look into the actual market value of his games, since he was underselling a lot of them. Next time I came by, his goods were priced more in line with their real value. Ah well.
My best gaming deal ever happened decades ago - back in February of 1985 to be precise. I was still living in the UK and had just started my first job as reviewer at the new Commodore 64 magazine, ZZAP! 64. During one lunch break, shortly after I'd joined the company, I wandered over to the local Woolworths store to see what new games they had in stock, and noticed that they were selling off older video game consoles at knock-down prices. I wasn't particularly interested in an Atari 2600 or an Intellivision - both of which were very long in the tooth at that point - but I was very taken by the prospect of a brand new Colecovision console for just $25. At that point, the machine was barely a few years old, and to me was still very desirable for its range of excellent arcade conversions.
I snagged a system, and then saw that there were several bargain bins of cartridges that were being sold off for just $5 apiece. I raked through the selection, most of which were fairly crappy old games for the 2600 and Intellivision, but did unearth copies of Zaxxon, Antarctic Adventure, Donkey Kong Jr., Pepper II, and Burgertime - all of which were pretty good. I remember taking my haul back to the office and showing it off to my workmates, and a couple of them left immediately to pick up consoles and games for themselves. We had a fun afternoon playing through our bargain buys!
Over the following weeks, I ended up finding a few more heavily discounted games at different stores. It seemed that because of the decline of the gaming market in America, many video game hardware companies were pulling out of the UK, and retailers were dumping their stocks. Their loss was my gain, and I soon had a nice collection of games for my Coleco, which I ended up spending a lot of time playing.
My best deal was a pretty easy one. I wanted the PlayStation 2, but I was in college and couldn't afford $299 asking price for it. The significant other of a friend had somehow picked up two PlayStation 2s and was willing to sell me one of them for $200 even. The package even came with a few games he was willing to offset: SSX and Fantavision. The latter was absolute nonsense to me, but SSX was the truth and the light.
That's probably the best deal I've gotten on my own. That said, I've previously worked in gaming retail, once at a local mom-and-pop trade-in game store and once at GameStop itself. Definitely gotten some great deals in both place, partially from employee discounts and partially from offering customers more than trade-in value for some rare games. Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and Suikoden V for PlayStation 2, Fatal Frame and the Grand Theft Auto: Double Pack for Xbox, Dawn of Sorrow for DS.
There's no one deal I've had, because I am a dealhunter. I've lived life on the edge, looking for discounts and deals. Never pay full price, my friends. Never pay full price.
When I moved to San Francisco in early 2009, I was a fresh-to-the-industry freelance working for 1UP. I ran 1UP's RPG Blog at the time, and I needed a PlayStation 3 to play Valkyria Chronicles. A new PS3 cost about $399 at that time, but it was considerably more expensive when factoring in the various extraneous costs piled on top of it. Worse, Sony had moved away from the launch PS3 by that time, which meant the backward compatibility systems were fairly hard to come by.
To my delight, I was able to find a 60 gigabyte launch PS3 for $400 on eBay. Even better, it came with a lot of more than 30 PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 games, including Motorstorm, The Darkness, ICO, Kingdom Hearts, and numerous other desirable games. It was such a good deal that I wondered if it wasn't a scam. I cautiously put in a bid and wound up winning.
A little less than a week later, I hauled home a huge, heavy box from the post office containing the console and the games. I promptly dumped a large number of the PlayStation 2 games on eBay, many of which I already owned, netting me a little more than $100. Several of the PS3 games likewise went on eBay, and before I knew, I had paid off half the console. For a poor writer like myself, it was an amazing bargain.
As I later learned, the PS3 belonged to a couple that had decided to give up gaming, hence the decision to dump the console and all the games on the market. I was the lucky beneficiary. As it happens, I still own that PS3, and it's given me many hours of enjoyment (plus lots of work opportunities). So to the people who decided to dump their PS3: I appreciate it. It was the best eBay purchase I ever made.
Before digital distribution, video game deals were a difficult thing to find in Canada. My fellow Canadians are probably raising their double-doubles in solidarity right now. It was the worst in the ‘80s and ‘90s, when a very low dollar and the base high prices for cartridge games meant a single title could cost you your first-born.
(Side note to Oreb the Blood-Harvester if you’re reading this: As long as I don’t give birth, you can’t collect. Nyeh.)
Game prices were high enough that I often couldn’t cash in a birthday wish to get one. The average price for an NES game was $80 CAD plus tax, and my parents just didn’t have that kind of money to blow most of the time.
Nevertheless, when my something-or-other birthday came around, I pleaded with my parents to let me check the local Toys R Us in hopes of a miracle. They relented, told me not to get my hopes up, and guided me to the aisle of plastic tags (“Only ‘90s kids remember!!”).
Sure enough, nearly everything there was $80 or better. Nearly. Castlevania III was on sale for a very attractive $20.
It was the best birthday ever. Thank you, Santa!