When it comes to buying PC games online, you have quite a few choices. In the old days, Steam was the only game in town, but not anymore. Before picking up a game, check all the stores to make sure you’re getting the best price. You can do so using an online tool—see later in this post.
Here’s a list of places to buy your PC games
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. Perhaps you’re new to gaming or you’ve always bought your games offline, at a brick and mortar store, so you don’t know about Steam.
Steam is the most popular place to buy games. It has a great selection and accepts most currencies. Check reviews carefully at Steam because it’s the most open platform when it comes to allowing developers to add their games to its store. The quality of games on the platform can range from superb to just terrible.
If you’ve never bought a game on Steam before, check out my How to Play a Game on Steam post.
2. Epic Games Store
The Epic Games store is a relatively new player in the online gaming store area. Apparently it offers developers a better revenue percentage from each sale of their game. However, some gamers don’t like it because they only want to buy their games at one specific store. Epic has managed to land a bunch of exclusives, meaning you can only buy some games at the Epic store. Some Epic exclusives are popular. For example, the last game in The Walking Dead narrative game series is only available at Epic.
To me, a store is a store is a store. I don’t have loyalty to one platform. If a store has a game I want at the best price, I’ll buy it there.
GOG started out as Good Old Games. It specialized in older PC games that might not run any longer on modern PCs unless you wanted to fiddle around with DOSBox, a DOS emulator, or with configuration files. In other words, you couldn’t just buy these older games, install them, and run.
GOG’s developers received the rights from some older games’ original publishers to make the games easy to run on modern PCs, and then sell them. All sorts of great golden oldies are available at GOG.
Over time GOG has changed and now it sells all sorts of games. It still sells older games that you can’t find anywhere else, but it also offers modern games, too.
An important feature at GOG is that all games are sold DRM-free. Some gamers prefer to buy their games at GOG for that reason. They’ll only buy a game from somewhere else if it’s not available at GOG. DRM-free means that you don’t have to be logged in to any platform to play the game, and it’s not tied to any one device.
Origin is Electronic Arts’ gaming platform, but it’s not limited to games published by EA. It has branched out to sell other games, as well, but it still only has a limited selection of games.
For years, some games have been exclusively available on Origin, such as the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series from BioWare. But recently, EA announced that its games would be returning to Steam.
That won’t mean the end of Origin though, because it also offers a subscription service called Origin Access, an all-in-one monthly subscription that gives you access to Origin’s entire game library. Of course, if you play a game using your subscription, you don’t actually own it. But if you’re not the type who replays games, you won’t care about that, and you always have the option of buying the games you really enjoyed, either from Origin or another online store.
I expect that Origin will continue to sell games too, but we’ll have to see.
5. Humble Bundle
Humble Bundle has been around for a while. It has a typical store where you can buy games, but it also offers a lot of cool bundles (hence the name) that you can buy for decent prices. The other cool thing about Humble Bundle is that it donates a portion of each game sold to charity. You can buy games and do good at the same time.
When you buy a game at Humble Bundle, you’ll obtain a game key that you have to activate at one of the gaming platforms. Typically this will be a Steam key, but recently Epic Game keys are being sold too.
Humble Bundle has a subscription service called Humble Choice that gives you a bundle of games each month for a deeply discounted price. It’s worth checking out.
6. Green Man Gaming and Fanatical.
When you buy a game from a third-party key seller, you’ll receive a key that you have to activate at a platform like Steam. These sellers often have great discounts running, so check them before you buy a game at the Steam store.
If you’re not sure how to activate a key, read my post on How to Play Games on Steam.
UPlay is Ubisoft’s gaming platform. It also has a store where you can buy Ubisoft games. Its selection is quite limited, though. But regardless of where you buy a Ubisoft game, you have to activate it through the UPlay platform.
8. Game Publisher and Developer Sites
Most large game publishers (and some developers) have their own stores. For example, you can buy Beamdog games (the company that has released enhanced editions of many older BioWare RPGs) from Beamdog. You can buy Bethesda games (Elder Scrolls, Fallout) directly from the Bethesda store.
When you buy games directly from the publisher, you’ll usually have the choice to receive a Steam key so you can play the game through Steam and take advantage of features like achievements.
Some publishers have their own gaming platforms. Origin and UPlay are examples. In this case, you won’t receive a Steam key, because you’ll activate and play the game through the publisher’s platform.
You can usually buy MMO games directly from the publisher. That’s the route I usually take, since it cuts out a middleman. When buying MMOs, you generally don’t receive a Steam key because there’s no need to log into a gaming platform for DRM purposes. You can just go ahead and log in to the game directly.
Yep, you can buy games at Amazon. Since most shoppers are familiar with Amazon, I won’t say much else, except that what you’ll usually receive is a key that you can activate at Steam or on another platform, even when you receive a physical product. Inside the box will be a key.
10. Big Fish Games
Big Fish Games is the most popular store for hidden object, HOPA, time management, and other types of “casual” games. It has a huge selection and tons of exclusives. There are HOPA games here that you won’t find anywhere else. Eventually most of them make their way to Steam, but often months or years after their original release.
If you buy a lot of these types of games, you’ll probably want to join the Big Fish Game Club. Doing so pretty much means you’ll get all games at half price, but you’ll also have to pay a monthly subscription fee. I’ve belonged to the club for a while and find it worthwhile. The subscription fee is less than $10/month and you get a free game credit every month, which is good for one standard game. Save up two credits and you’ll get a collector’s edition for free.
Using a Tool to Find the Best Price
With all these stores, you might be wondering if you need to check all of them before you buy a game, to make sure you’re getting the best price.
Usually you’ll have two or three favourite stores and forget about the rest, unless one store has an exclusive on a game you really want. So you’ll check the two or three stores and then go ahead and purchase the game.
But if you really want to make sure you’re getting the best deal, you can go to Is There Any Deal. Search for the game you’re interested in, and you’ll see what the current best price is. If you want to see a table of prices at all the stores, just click on the game and you’ll go to another page with all the current prices.
If you scroll past the table, you’ll also see all available coupon codes, which is great.
Is There Any Deal will include prices from many stores I didn’t mention here. Some are lesser-known stores, and some are large stores (like the Windows store).
If you create an account, you can be notified when deals are available for the games you’re interested in.
Steam isn’t the only game in town (no pun intended!) when it comes to buying games online. Sometimes you’ll have to buy from another store because it has an exclusive on a game. Other times you’ll want to get the best deal. Or maybe you want a portion of your purchase to go to charity, or you want your games to be DRM-free. The good news is that you have options for where to buy PC games online.