With Christmas behind us, many people are facing budgets that are now as tight as Catwoman’s catsuit until the end of January. If you’re a console gamer with a job and you don’t want to find yourself in this cash-strapped situation this time next year, we have a suggestion on how to save cash in 2014: join Microsoft or Sony’s premium subscription services.

It sounds odd to recommend shelling out money in order to save, but it’s true: both Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus memberships offer some pretty good benefits that aren’t limited to just free games, all for the less than the cost of a single AAA game; not a bad deal in these trying economic times. By signing up, you could potentially save thousands that you can put towards surviving 2015’s mid-December-to-end-January pay gap.

Read on for more details.

PS Plus

PlayStation Plus

The cost for joining PlayStation Plus is, at the time of writing, R489 for a year, which works out to R40.75 per month. The free games come in the form of what Sony calls an “Instant Game Collection” that’s made up of 15 big-name games that are yours to download and play for as long as your PS+ subscription is active. These games are spread across all three of Sony’s major platforms, which is fantastic value if you own a PS4, a PS3 and a Vita, and they change every month. The most recent games to be added to the Instant Game Collection include DmC Devil May Cry and Borderlands 2.

Sony lets PS+ subscribers “try before they buy” by letting them play select games in the online store for an hour without paying. They also get access to game demos and are offered places in beta programmes before anyone else, and on top of that, PS+ members get offered generous discounts on many games in the store. If you’re a hardcore gamer who loves everything games-related, it really pays to sign up.

There are only two bad things to say about a  PS+ subscription. The first is that it’s required if you want to play PS4 games online, which sucks as gaming online with the PS3 was and still is completely free. The second is that the games in the Instant Game Collection aren’t yours to keep forever – they can only be played as long as they’re part of the line-up. Fortunately they’re heavily discounted by the time they’re removed, but it’s still an annoyance.

XBL Gold

Games for Gold

From Microsoft’s side, there’s the “Games for Gold” programme for Xbox Live Gold members. It’s a slightly simpler system, but it essentially offers the same thing: subscribers get given games over the course of their subscription and are awarded discounts that non-members don’t have access to, and is necessary to play games online. It costs R460 for a 12-month membership, which works out to just R38.33 monthly.

The way it works is on the 1st and 16th of every month, a new game is made available to members that can be downloaded for free. Once downloaded, however, it is permanently associated with your Xbox Live account, and even if you don’t renew your subscription, the games are yours to keep and play. The only catch is that if you don’t choose to download the free game on offer while it’s available, you lose out. At the time of writing (the 14th of January, 2014), Sleeping Dogs is available to Gold members for free.

Is there anything bad to say about XBL Gold? Only that it’s rather annoying to have to pay in order to enjoy games online with friends, but them’s the breaks.

Worth it

If you were to buy all of the games available to you through these services, you’ll end up spending thousands of rands. If saving money is a priority in 2014, there really is no better way to save cash while also getting a bunch of “free” games than by signing up with either PlayStation Plus or Xbox Live Gold.

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.