Cheap Thrills

Enjoy thousands of games for less

Guitar Hero: Metallica

courtesy Gamespress

Once upon a time, $40 or $60 went a long way towards satisfying your gaming jones. Not only did it buy a hot new title or two, but also must-have accessories like chips and soda. Nowadays though, that's the bare minimum you'll drop on first-run PC, handheld, or next-gen console releases. So what's a poor, cash-starved player to do? Easy -- take advantage of a new breed of products and services designed to help you get more for your dollar.

While any GameStop offers used software in good condition at a fraction of the price of shrinkwrapped originals, where's the fun there? It's infinitely more convenient signing up for leading rental service GameFly, whose 6,000-strong library of titles (dating back to GameCube) trumps any traditional retailer's selection, and ships right to your door. New releases arrive in timely fashion, discs can be kept as long as you like with no late fees, and up to four titles can be simultaneously checked out. Alas, like Netflix, a subscription plan is necessary, and games can take a ways to arrive via mail. But at $15.95 to $36.95/month, it still provides considerable savings, given that a single title alone can cost nearly twice as much.

Goozex instead acts as a community forum for those interested in swapping and trading software. Looking for an obscure outing like Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, or can't bring yourself to pay for the latest Madden? Simply suggest games from your own collection that you're willing to part with, and the service pairs you with potential matches. Titles are assigned point scores based on relative value though, so don't expect to pawn off a dog-eared copy of Illbleed for Dreamcast in exchange for recent debuts such as Guitar Hero: Metallica. Bummer.

However, if truly hoary old gaming classics are more your speed, also be sure to check out alternate options including Game Trading Zone, GameTradeCentral, and Trade Games Now. Don't overlook Amazon.com's new trade-in service either, which offers gift cards for games, giving you extra loot to burn on blockbuster debuts or childhood favorites.

Better still, as a whole, courtesy of set-top digital distribution services and devices like the iPhone and DSi, value-priced selections are more accessible than ever. Retail bargain hunters even have a dedicated resource -- the aptly-titled Cheap Ass Gamer -- devoted to ferreting out the best deals. Meaning that the next time you're considering plunking down cash on the latest first-person epic or fantasy adventure, take a second to stop and relax. It doesn't necessarily have to mean taking on a second job, or missing a mortgage payment.

Get Rich Playing Games author and TV/radio host Scott Steinberg has covered technology for 400+ outlets from CNN to Rolling Stone. For more of his insights, visit www.gadgetexpert.net.