Samsung Unpacked Livestream Wednesday New Wordle Strategy Nest vs. Ecobee Thermostat Best Deals Under $25 Fitness Supplements Laptops for High School Samsung QLED vs. LG OLED TV Samsung Unpacked Predictions
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you

How to buy PC games on the cheap

If you're paying full price, you're doing it wrong.

South Park: The Stick of Truth may be $59.99 now, but in a few months it won't be.
South Park: The Stick of Truth may be $59.99 now, but in a few months it won't be.

PC gaming may be on life support, but it's definitely not dead. Indeed, plenty of the top game releases of 2013 -- BioShock: Infinite, Injustice: Gods Among Us, Saints Row IV, Tomb Raider -- were not merely for consoles.

What's more, if you're looking for good gaming on the cheap, you really have to look to the PC. Although a decent desktop (one with a reasonably powerful discrete graphics card) will probably cost you a bit more than a console, you stand to save a bundle when it comes to stocking it with games. All you have to do is follow a few simple rules.

1. Wait.
If you buy a game within the first couple months of its release, you're almost certainly going to pay the full list price, or very close to it. Right now, for example, the just-released South Park: The Stick of Truth costs $59.99, while the recent reboot of Thief runs $49.99. Those are premium prices, and by exercising a little patience, you can avoid them.

For example, one year ago this month, the aforementioned BioShock: Infinite debuted with a $59.99 price tag. Today, Newegg has it on sale for $9.99 (actually, $7.99 if you apply coupon code EMCPGPF98 at checkout). That's a savings of nearly 87 percent. And all you had to do was wait a year.

Sometimes it doesn't even take that long. Last year, barely a month after Tomb Raider made its $49.99 PC debut, Green Man Gaming ran a sale offering the game for just $20.

Needless to say, you should never buy a PC game when it first comes out. I routinely see $40-$50 titles selling for $10-$20 within months after their release, and it's not uncommon to find top-rated, high-profile games for under $10 within a year.

2. Shop around.
For any game you're interested in buying, don't assume that, say, Amazon or Steam has the best price. On any given day, you might find a better deal at GameFly, GamersGate, Green Man Gaming, or another store.

Of course, you probably don't want to spend a lot of time store-hopping, searching for the game you want at each stop. Thankfully, you don't have to: price-comparison sites like CheapShark and IsThereAnyDeal will look up online prices for any given game, and even send alerts when prices drop.

Sites like GameHour will price-compare PC games for you.
Sites like GameHour will price-compare PC games for you. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

For example, if you simply cannot wait for South Park: Stick of Truth, CheapShark reveals that one store (GetGames) has it for 20 percent off the $59.99 list price. (I still say give it a few months, because eventually you'll be able to get it for $30, $20, or even less.)

3. Watch for bundles.
In your face, console owners! PC game bundles offer the kind of bang for the buck you simply can't get with a PlayStation or an Xbox.

Outfits like Bundle Stars, Humble Bundle, and IndieGala routinely offer some amazing deals -- usually for indie games (not that there's anything wrong with those), but sometimes for well-known commercial stuff as well.

This collection of a dozen indie games costs just $4.99 at Bundle Stars.
This collection of a dozen indie games costs just $4.99 at Bundle Stars. Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

For example, earlier this year the Humble folks offered a name-your-own-price bundle of Sid Meier games. Last summer, Green Man Gaming put together a $10 Grand Theft Auto bundle, and before that the Humble Origin Bundle served up eight top-tier EA games for literally a few bucks. Come on!

A lot of these bundles give you the option of diverting some (or all) of your payment to charity -- icing on the cake, if you ask me.

Have you found any other tools, services, or secrets for scoring sweet deals on PC games? Share them in the comments!