5 easy ways to save money on digital Xbox One games

The Xbox One is a console built around its online feature set, with games and services offered digitally over Xbox Live. And while it is undoubtedly the future of obtaining games, digital titles still come out significantly more expensive than their physical disc-based counterparts. If you're a gamer who wants to embrace digital purchases without the high price tag, these are the tips for you.

Are your digital Xbox One games really here to stay?

Take advantage of Xbox subscription services

One of the greatest examples of the Xbox One's online potential is its subscription services. With three game subscriptions available on the console today, Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Game Pass and EA Access, there are several opportunities to secure bundles of games at a lower-than-retail price.

For the average gamer, Xbox Game Pass is often the most valuable option – a Microsoft-operated service that provides access to over 100 games for a flat monthly fee. Ranging from recent big-budget blockbusters to backward compatible titles of previous generations, you'll be getting a wide spectrum of experiences at $9.99 per month. And if you ever exhaust the library, you can simply cancel the subscription.

EA Access is a similar service, operated by one of the world's biggest publishers, Electronic Arts. Available exclusively on Xbox One, the service provides access to a growing collection of EA-published games at $4.99 per month, or $19.99 per year. There's also a quick turnaround on new titles after their release, with Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1 and FIFA 17 all among the free titles.

Finally, Xbox Live Gold, the console's all-inclusive subscription for online services, also provides access to four free games per month for about $10 a month. Under the "Games with Gold" program, subscribers get two Xbox One games and two backward compatible Xbox 360 games, which remain tied to your account. As a subscription already purchased by many for online features, the additional games are a welcome addition.

Don't dismiss free-to-play

While many of the best experiences available on Xbox One are paid titles, paid doesn't necessarily mean better. The Xbox One has a healthy collection of free-to-play games served up through the Microsoft Store, some on par, or surpassing the experiences offered by paid titles.

Most genres are fairly well represented across the Xbox One's free-to-play library, as well as differing budgets and scale. Due to the nature of free-to-play, the library houses a fair number of smaller titles from independent developers. On the flip side, titles from larger studios are available, too, with established monetization fuelled by paid expansions and microtransactions.

Some of the best free-to-play titles are those that have seen success with similar business models on PC. Among the highlights are Smite, Paladins, and Warframe, each offering free entry, with optional in-game purchases. World of Tanks, Path of Exile and Hawken also utilize similar business models, without heavily pushing purchases at the cost of enjoyment.

Look beyond the Microsoft Store

Just because you may prefer digital games, doesn't mean you need to stick exclusively to the Microsoft Store. If Xbox Live isn't discounting your most-wanted games directly, there are likely still ways to secure a discount.

One of the best ways to save on a game is by purchasing discounted pre-paid Microsoft Store credit, essentially rewarding buyers for locking their cash down ahead of time. Amazon, Newegg, and CDKeys are all retailers known for discounting pre-paid Microsoft Store codes in the past, often cutting $5 to $10 at a time. You'll have to wait for these deals to appear.

Alternatively, Xbox One game keys can also be obtained from third-party retailers, often below their equivalent Xbox Live retail pricing. This depends on whether a specific game is being offered for less, though it can be easy savings if caught at the right time.

Hold for the sales

Even if it's tempting to pick up a new title at launch, don't be so quick to throw down your cash. Digital games may be more expensive than physical counterparts, though digital discounts are appearing sooner after launch.

Xbox Live regularly has major sales, with large-scale price cuts across spring, summer and the holidays. Recent releases are frequently among these, with 10 to 15 percent off the standard price. It might not be a ground-breaking discount, though it helps in the long term.

Take advantage of reward programs

For those heavily invested in Microsoft ecosystems, its two main reward programs, "Xbox Live Rewards" and "Microsoft Rewards," can be the source of savings. With both programs offering Microsoft Store credit, this can be a way of obtaining additional discounts, without making a conscious effort to do so.

By using Microsoft Rewards, points earned by completing milestones and challenges can be redeemed for credit, or Xbox Game Pass subscriptions. These challenges include finishing quizzes, completing surveys or simply using Microsoft services.

Xbox Live Rewards{.nofollow} is a similar program designed for Xbox owners, providing bonuses for playing titles, making specific purchases or generally buying digital goods. These points are automatically translated into Microsoft credit on your account, which can deliver a surprise discount at checkout.

Have you got any additional tips for saving on Xbox One titles? Make sure to drop them into the comments and share them below.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.