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Play it cheap: Cost-saving gaming tips

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How to see more of this stuff. - Morguefile

Energy costs are sky-high, and they're not going down any time soon. And although
video games provide more bang for the buck than some other pastimes we could
name, it's not exactly a money-saving hobby.

But with a few simple tweaks, you can overhaul your gaming habits and equipment,
reduce your energy usage, and increase your ailing bank account. Here's how.

Turn it off!

Obvious, right? Convenient though it might be to leave a game running while you run out
for more delicious Cheetos, you're wasting energy that could be put to better
use. Even if you're forgetful, there's no excuse: all modern consoles have
auto-power-off features buried down in the set up menus. Set 'em, forget 'em,
save money, feel smug. Easy.

Or is it? Many electronic devices, including consoles, continue to use electricity
even when they're supposedly powered off. It's called "phantom power"
-- and although it might sound like a comic-book villain, it's all too real.
The phrase refers to the low current drawn by devices that are on standby, but
still technically powered.

Although such drains are small, they can add up over time, and if you're a gadget-heavy
household your toys might be drinking a substantial amount of juice between
them. Consider using power strips that can be shut off with a single switch, or
just unplugging your system when you're done using it.

Watch the sales

Competition is hot in the games retail world, and you don't need to pay $60 for a new game if you know where to go. Amazon regularly has deals that'll give you $10 or
even $20 in credit if you pre-order your games through them. Recently, they've
also been slashing prices of games just a week or two after release -- like
their recent Portal 2 sale, which almost halved the price of this superb game.
Watch the web sites of the big retailers, keep your eyes on deal sites like dealmein.net and cheapassgamer.com, and don't be afraid to wait a week or two if you can't find the game you want. There's a good chance it will appear somewhere at a price that works within your budget.

Stop swapping batteries

Still feeding your controllers a steady diet of AAs? Stop it. It's expensive, it's wasteful,
and it's a pain in the butt, as you'll know if you've ever run out of batteries
in the middle of an epic Call of Duty match. Rechargable batteries are the way
to go; whether you opt for all-purpose standard-sized cells or one of the
many customized setups aimed at gamers
, you'll save money, time, and hassle.

Check out 7 free online games worth playing

Rent and trade

Depending on your gaming habits, there may be an even better way to get your fix. Gamefly offers a Netflix-like mail-based rental service and gets the thumbs-up from many customers, although turnaround speed depends on how close you are to one of its distribution centers. Redbox, the movie rental service that operates those big red boxes you've seen at the grocery store, is broadening its service to games over the next few months. And trading site Goozex lets you turn your old games into new ones without having to deal with Gamestop's poor trade-in prices. (Though you have to pay Goozex a few bucks instead, it's often a much better deal.)

Go digital

We all love tearing the plastic-wrap off a brand new game. But that box and its
contents soak up fossil fuels on their journey from manufacturing plant to
warehouse to retailer to you. With that in mind, publishers are doing their
best to cut packaging and distribution costs -- particularly EA, who recently
announced they're ditching paper manuals and redesigning cases to use less plastic.

But you can do your part, too, by cutting out the middlemen altogether and hitting
up download services for more of your games. Thanks to Steam, Impulse,
Direct2Drive and their ilk, it's been easy on the PC for years, while recent
pushes by Microsoft and Sony (when it's working) have seen newer console games like Red Dead Redemption and Mass Effect 2 show up for download, too. Bets of all, downloads are often hit with fantastic sales -- Steam in particular is well-known for impromptu two- or
three-day sales with serious discounts.

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