How to spot good Black Friday video game deals

Gaming is an expensive hobby, so if you’re reading this, chances are you will be looking for discounts on consoles, games, or accessories on Black Friday. By now, you may have seen ads from Best Buy, GameStop, Target, Walmart, Toys “R” Us, and others touting gaming discounts on the biggest shopping day of the year. Just because a retailer presents these Black Friday advertisements as enticing bargains, though, doesn’t mean you should fork your cash over right away. Not every discounted (or seemingly) discounted item is worth the time in line, or your money. Before you dive into the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deal storm, we have some tips for how to spot good Black Friday video game deals, and which ones to avoid.

Console discounts are almost always solid

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Black Friday is the best day of the year to buy premium video game consoles for low prices. You almost can’t go wrong when picking up a new gaming system at a discount, mostly because hardware, unlike games, keeps its regular retail price longer and sees few discounts. Video game consoles can drop by as much as $100 on Black Friday, which is a far better offer than you will see during the few fleeting sales offered throughout the calendar year.

This year is no different. Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One S are available widely for incredible prices.

If you’re in the market for a PS4, you can find a 1TB model for $200. Kohls is also throwing in a $60 Kohls Cash to sweeten the deal even more. While you may find PS4s bundled with games for a seemingly good price, bundles aren’t always the best option. Unless the bundle includes the specific games you’re looking for, you’re better off purchasing the console by itself and picking up the games you actually want separately.

Adding convenience, a number of retailers, including GameStop and Best Buy, are already selling the PS4 for $200. That’s right, you can take advantage of the great price before the Black Friday madness officially begins.

As for the Xbox One, a 500GB Xbox One S will be widely discounted to $190 at most major retailers. Any Xbox One purchased at that price is a good buy, but Target and Kohls will include gift cards as well. Getting a little something extra at that price is an absolute steal.

There don’t seem to be widespread sales on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. Likewise Nintendo of America CEO Reggie Fils-Aime said the ever-so-popular Nintendo Switch will not be widely discounted this year. If you do see one on sale, even just a little bit, grab it.

Look for half-price games, even brand new ones

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A mountain of PS4 and Xbox One games will be on sale at retailers across the country. Many will be marked at great prices, some of them will not be. Discounts vary widely by game and even store-to-store, so how do you know which ones are actually worth waiting in line for?

We recommend looking for games priced at 50 percent off, or close to it. That sounds somewhat unreasonable, we know. But even recently released games can drop below 50 percent off on Black Friday. For instance, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, which launched less than a month ago, goes for $25 at GameStop on Black Friday.

That said, a AAA game that launched within the past few months can still be a good deal at $40. We just advise that you can compare prices when you stumble upon a $40 title. A bit of research shows that the recent Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite is a solid purchase at $40, but that’s not always the case. WWE 2K18 sounds like a good deal for $40 at GameStop. After all, it just launched in October, but Best Buy has it for $30.

If a game costs more than $40, you don’t don’t need to run out and grab it.

Keep in mind that the standard price for new games is typically $60, but games drop in price over time. It helps to know the regular retail price of the game so you know the extent of the discount. Our 50 percent off guideline applies to games that originally go for $20, $30, $40, and $50, too. For example, a great 2016 game like Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End shouldn’t be purchased for more than $20, as its retail price has dropped to $40. Try and maximize your savings, and if the asking price isn’t hovering around that half-off number, it doesn’t hurt to do a quick search on your phone before heading to the register.

One note: Like the Switch console, you will have a hard time finding discounts on Switch games. If you happen upon some sales, even $5 off a Switch game is probably a good deal.

Use BOGO only if you maximize your value

Everyone loves a good “buy one, get one” sale — BOGO for short — but the sale doesn’t work to your advantage unless you pair the right items.

BOGO sales usually require customers to buy one item at full retail price, and the second item will be free, or half-off in some cases. On Black Friday, you can ignore any BOGO half-off sales altogether, but buy one, get one free opportunities can be worthwhile if you maximize your value.

If you get two games originally priced at $60 using a BOGO sale, you effectively followed our 50 percent off guideline. There’s even a chance that you can save a bit more if the games you pick aren’t at least 50 percent off at other stores. BOGO is particularly great for recently released titles that are hard to find at sub-50 percent off prices.

Don’t fall in love with BOGO, though. You always have to pay for the most expensive item in these sorts of sales, so the free item should be as close to (preferably equal to) the price of the game you are paying for. Paying full price for a $60 game and getting a lesser priced game for free might actually cost you more than it would if you bought both titles individually.

BOGO with a pair of $60 games? Great deal. BOGO with differently priced games? Be leery. There is a good chance both of those games are on sale elsewhere and for a better value.

Don’t buy a controller and headset unless you really need one

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Accessories such as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One controllers and gaming headsets are marked down in droves on Black Friday.

This year, first-party PS4 and Xbox One controllers look to be priced at $40 and up. A $40 controller is a pretty good deal, but it’s offered sporadically throughout the year as well. If you are buying a new console, spending an extra $40 on a controller seems smart, but if you have no immediate need for an extra controller, just know that you will be able to find PS4 and Xbox One controllers for that price down the road. We also recommend avoiding deals on any third-party accessories, unless it is a product you know is great. There are plenty of low-quality peripherals out there.

Don’t be fooled by a deal that is “too good to pass up”

Even if you know exactly what you’re looking for, chances are you’ll find something else, something additional, a game that is marked down that you weren’t planning on buying. This may seem like common sense, but falling into the trap of buying needless products on Black Friday happens to the best of us. Just because you are paying less money for a game, it doesn’t mean you are saving money. If you or your loved one never ends up playing the random, impulse buy, then it wasn’t a good deal to begin with — no matter how little you paid for it.

Keep an eye out for products that enhance your gaming experience

Consoles, games, controllers, headsets — what else could you possibly need? As gaming has become an entertainment focal point, the number of non-game specific products that can enhance your overall gaming experience has grown significantly. Black Friday has great deals across all tech and entertainment devices, and many of those have gaming applications.

For instance, if you buy an Xbox One or PS4, you may want to consider an external hard drive as well. 500GB to 1TB may sound like infinite storage space, but nowadays games take up huge chunks of space since they have to fully install on console hard drives.

And while you likely won’t get a discount on a Nintendo Switch or its games, you can save money on microSD cards and portable battery packs on Black Friday. The Switch has limited storage space, making the need for a microSD card nearly mandatory down the line. A discounted portable charger will come in handy when you’re on the go, as the console only has enough juice to run for about three hours between charges.

On the more expensive side of things to consider, in the age of hyper-realistic visuals, the TV you play games on does, in fact, make a difference. It’s never too early to consider future-proofing your gaming setup by looking into 4K televisions. And if you splurge and pick up an Xbox One X or PS4 Pro, it’s pretty much a must to see the enhancements in action.