A PC gaming setup with colorful lights.

The proliferation of game platforms has created an interesting (and money-wasting!) problem. It’s all too easy to forget you have a game and repurchase it on a different platform. Here’s how to avoid that.

Note: The method outlined below requires a free open-source Windows app. Unfortunately, there isn’t an equivalent macOS or Linux-based solution—nor are there any comparable web-based options.

The Problem: Your Games Are Scattered Everywhere

Not every gamer will have this problem, but it’s incredibly common. Back when the only way to get your hands on PC games was to purchase them through Steam or buy a physical copy at your local retailer, it wasn’t too difficult to keep track of what you had. Further, back then in the veritable stone ages of game downloading and online platforms, console storefronts were underwhelming or didn’t even exist.

So when you went game shopping, either the game was already in your Steam library—and the one place you were shopping online, Steam, would tell you—or it was sitting on the shelf right by your computer. Pretty easy to keep things straight. Same thing with consoles. Unless you happened to be at Best Buy and you forgot you already bought the game, there was little chance you’d buy it twice. (Admittedly, that still happens to me sometimes—curse you, $10 clearance bin.)

But the game purchasing and delivery landscape has changed since the early days of Steam and strictly physical console games.

Now, PC gamers have so many places to buy games and more than a few of them are quite generous with the giveaways. Instead of just games on Steam, you might have those plus games on Epic Games, Humble Bundle, Good Old Games (GOG), Origin, Ubisoft Connect, Amazon Gaming, Itch.io. and more.

Add in all the console stores like the Nintendo, Xbox, and PlayStation stores and you have even more game sources.

To further complicate it, if you stay on top of all those aforementioned generous game giveaways and freebies across the platforms you can quickly amass a lot of games.

How many games? I pop into /r/gamedeals and other game-deal-centric subreddits once a week or so to collect all the freebies available from Epic Games, Amazon Gaming, and other sources. As a result, I have hundreds of games across those and other platforms.

AER's store page on Steam.

Because of that, when a major or minor game sale comes along, it’s really easy to look at good deal and go “Oh hey, I remember reading about that game, I should buy that!” without realizing you already have the game in one or more places already.

If you’re a freebie-frequent flyer it’s possible you don’t just have it in more than one location, you might even have it on both the PC and your console of choice too!

Maybe it’s not a huge deal if you buy a sub-$2 game, like a copy of AER: Memories of Old seen on sale in the screenshot above, but buying pricier titles (or many bargain titles over time) sure can add up.

The Solution: Playnite Shows You What You Own

So what’s the secret to avoiding the “I forgot I already owned that!” trap? Collecting all your games in one place so you can easily see what you own—whether you bought it, got it for free, or whether it’s on your console, an emulator, or you have a physical copy on a shelf.

To date, we haven’t found a better way to do that than Playnite. We’ve recommended it before and we’ll recommend it again, especially for this task. In fact, even if you have no intention of using Playnite as a master launchpad for all your games, you should still install it just to make shopping for new games easier.

The reason Playnite is so perfect for the problem we outlined above is the automation. Once you download and install Playnite, you plug in all your various game store credentials from your Steam account to your Xbox account and it automagically polls all your game libraries to create a database of all your games.

Have games that aren’t part of a digital platform like physical discs or old game cartridges? You can manually add those too if you want to be really thorough. I tend to buy physical Nintendo games over digital ones, and I’ve manually added all those little Switch cartridges to the database just so I have my bases covered.

Once you’ve done that, any time you’re considering snapping up a game on sale you can take less than 10 seconds to plug the name into the search console in Playnite and see if you already have it. Should I buy AER: Memories of Old? Let’s check.

AER on Playnite.

According to Playnite’s magic-eight-ball, no. Because the game was already a giveaway on both the Epic and Amazon Game stores.

The only reason I’d buy it on Steam is if there was some particular aspect—like Steam’s remote play or achievement system—that made me want it on Steam in particular. But for simply playing this particular single-player game through, there’s no reason to repurchase it.

And that’s it! If you’re not snatching up all those freebie games and you tend to play one AAA title at a time until it’s seared into your memory, hey, maybe this tip isn’t for you. But for all my fellow game hoarders out there, keeping an auto-magically updated game list to double-check before dumping a bunch of money on yet-another-Steam-sale is bound to save you some money.

Better yet, not only does it stop you from buying duplicate games, but seeing your enormous game library all organized in Playnite might just make you say “You know, I really should play some of these games before I buy new ones.”

Profile Photo for Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Senior Smart Home Editor at How-To Geek. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at How-To Geek, Review Geek, LifeSavvy, and Lifehacker. Jason served as Lifehacker's Weekend Editor before he joined How-To Geek.
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