The US Dollar is as weak as it's ever been at the moment. That's (generally) bad news for Americans, but for everyone else? It's good news if you buy video games and like to save money.
It's long been a complaint from gamers in territories like Europe and Australasia that video games are disproportionately priced overseas when compared to what Americans pay.
Here's what I mean:
(I haven't included Canada for obvious reasons, while Latin America, I know you pay even crazier prices, but the lack of official retail channels makes recommended retail price comparisons difficult. Suffice to say, though, that the following advice applies just as easily to you as it does the Irish or New Zealanders.)
Ridiculous, isn't it? While it's a relative comparison, given the fact the recommended retail price for games doesn't change radically within the boundaries of one country or territory (eg games have long been AUD$110 here), it's a comparison we still get to make since we live in a time of internet shopping.
To start saving some cash and start taking advantage of this once-in-a-generation weakening of the world's primary currency, then, you'll need to ditch your local games retailer and head online. Buy your games from America, where thanks to the weak dollar, the buying is cheap.
(Those experienced at this sort of thing, you won't find anything new here. But if you've never considering importing games before, and think now's a good time to start, read on!)
While some US stores like Amazon make international video game purchases difficult without a third-party workaround (like Bongo or Parcel2Go), others - like Play-Asia - have no qualms shipping internationally.
Whichever option you choose, you'll be saving money. The chart above, for example, shows that a new video game in Australia costs AUD$110. That's how much I'd pay were I to walk into a local EB Games and ask for a copy of Fallout: New Vegas on PS3.
Yet on Play-Asia, paying using the weakened US dollar, I can get a copy of the same game on the PlayStation 3 for AUD$65, a price that includes shipping. That's almost a half-price deal on a brand new, AAA title.
Buying stuff online isn't fool-proof, however, so exercise a little caution before you start spending. While many systems (like the PS3, PSP and DS) are region-free, others (like the Xbox 360 and Wii) are not, so you'll need to make sure the game you're buying is compatible with the system you own. Europeans should also note that Play-Asia won't ship Sony products to the Old World.
You'll need to do your homework when buying hardware, too. For the sake of warranty and game compatibility we'd recommend in most cases sticking to your local model, but if you absolutely must import (whether for big savings or for a rare model), make sure your house can handle the voltage of the imported system, and that you're prepared to have all your games flown in if your new console isn't compatible with the games available in your local store.
As a general rule, handhelds are fine to import from the US. The PlayStation 3 is also not too difficult, since its games are region-free. The Xbox 360 is a little trickier, since some of its games are region-free and others are not (that decision is left up to the publisher). And the Wii? Every Wii game is region-locked, so unless you want to mod the console or import all your games, bear that in mind.
Now you know all that, it's time to hit the internet and get yourself a bargain. Who knows how long the US dollar will stay this low, so the sooner you get cracking, the better!
UPDATE - Thanks to everyone who pointed out that while the rrp for games in Britain is generally around 50 quid, you can often get them so much cheaper it's not worth importing. In that case, well, nobody is forcing you to! Go where the best price is!