We love video games. We love them so much that in 2011 we spent nearly $25 billion on games, hardware and accessories, according to the Entertainment Software Association. And by "we," I mean consumers in the United States alone. Mass. Game Developers See More OpportunitiesOf course, one reason we spend that much is because gaming is expensive. A new game for Microsoft's Xbox 360 can cost as much as $60, and you can expect to spend more than $50 for a new title for Sony's Playstation 3. As for consoles, cost varies but they're guaranteed to more expensive than the games. But you don't have to go broke. Here are some easy strategies that can keep your costs down.

Explore Game Exchanges and Trades

“Used games can be exchanged for credit at retail stores like GameStop, which is a pretty good way to get some money back out of the games you bought and played once,” says Charles Crawford of Digitaria Games, a San Diego digital marketing and technology firm. “Craigslist is another good option," he continues, "but only if you have a lot of games to sell. Doing it one at a time probably isn't worth the hassle." Also, he adds, check game exchanges like Goozex, which facilitate trading between individual gamers. Ben Cober, a self-described “voracious gamer” from the St. Louis area, has a related tip. “Trading in a lot of gaming hardware at a time, especially during promotions, can be huge,” he says. “About five months ago I traded in a Wii, with all its hardware, and about 16 games and got more than $300 in store credit. This was before the announcement of the WiiU.”

Scour Deal Sites

“These are communities of people who find and share great deals on products of all types,” says Crawford. “Slickdeals is the biggest and most well liked. Cheap Ass Gamer is a gaming-focused deal site, but the rapid access they afford users means the deals they post are often gone within hours or minutes of going up." To use the site successfully, he says, "you have to check frequently or set up email alerts for products you're interested in."

Love Your Store Clerk

Gamer Cober says another low-cost tactic is to get personal: Befriend store managers and other staffers at gaming stores they frequent. “They'll often slip you insider gaming news, and even gift certificates, if you help make their retail jobs less dull,” he says.

Create a Lending Library

Cober also suggests teaming up with others to create a library. “It's a free way to play the games you want, and share your great adventures with friends.”

Explore Free Gaming

Alexander Rivan Ronalds, a gaming entrepreneur based in Beijing, says avid gamers are increasingly turning toward free-to-play titles. For as little as 99 cents they can download thousands of applications that allow them to play games for free. Though Ronalds predicts that consoles and other high-end games and accessories will be around for a while, he contends that their market share is contracting. (In that, he's aligned with a growing number of industry observers.) The future of gaming is in devices like tablets, mobile phones and other devices that allow you to download applications for next to nothing.

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