There are hidden costs that come with my savings, however. Notably, I've had to give up the lively discussion that accompanies major releases. When every gamer I know seems to be playing Fallout 3 or GTA IV, swapping great stories and amazed reactions, I feel like the only person who wasn't invited to a great party. On the other hand, there's no escaping the fact that many games don't deserve anywhere near the attention they receive at release. This past June, you couldn't get away from the Infamous vs. Prototype discussion. By August you couldn't find a soul who still cared.
A greater loss is that I'm not as connected to my tribe as I used to be. Succumbing to unbounded praise and excessive glee is part of being a gamer, and it's how gamers come together. My favorite GTA IV memories are about the enthusiasm that accompanied its release: the midnight launch lines, the hyperbolic reviews, the furious debates and the long nights spent playing it in a room full of friends, roaring with laughter at comic homicides and passing the controller back and forth after each death. It was a rare moment when gaming really did make me feel (and act) like a kid again.
Holding back on new purchases also forces me to impose on my console-owning friends. I'm constantly dropping by to play the latest games just so that I can be up to date. While I like to think I'm good company, most people don't benefit from getting drunk on a weeknight and playing Metal Gear Solid 4 until three in the morning with a freelance writer friend who, unlike them, doesn't have anywhere to be in six hours. These charms are only enhanced by my regular declarations, at 20-minute intervals, that "this game would be so much better with a mouse and keyboard."
Hopping from bargain to bargain is a more isolated type of gaming, because I'm always months or even years behind the curve. By the time I get around to playing Red Faction: Guerilla, nobody will want to talk much about it. I'm also rarely surprised, because I read and hear too much before I get the chance to play.
For all that I miss about being part of the early crowd, however, I can't really go back. Now that I've been paying a few bucks apiece for games like Psychonauts, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Europa Universalis III, I can't return to paying full price for entirely unremarkable games just so I can have the privilege of playing them early. All prices are negotiable with patience, and given the stack of games I've accumulated lately, patience is something I can easily afford.
Rob Zacny is a freelance writer and noted cheapskate. You can follow his penny-pinching at http://robzacny.com.