Older software selling for a song if you can find the bargain bin COMPUTERS

July 26, 1993|By Barry Cooper | Barry Cooper,Orlando Sentinel

If you're using your computer for basic home use and you are spending hundreds of dollars on expensive software, do yourself a favor: Start shopping the bargain bins.

This time of year retailers slash prices on older titles as they begin to prepare for the holiday shopping season.

Using the attitude of a flea-market shopper, you can find software selling for as little as $5.

Of course, you won't find Lotus 1-2-3, a $495 financial spreadsheet program, at a giveaway price. But other titles, particularly entertainment software, can be found at prices that are hard to believe.

The other day, at a Target store, there were entertainment programs selling for $5. Many of the games once were top sellers costing $40 or more. They included King's Quest I, by Sierra; Thunderhawk, by Virgin Games; and Tennis Cup, by Electronic Zoo. All were for IBM-compatible PCs.

Bargains like that are available all the time if you know where to look. Keep in mind that software stores in shopping malls aren't a good source for budget software. Shelf space is tight in those stores, and they tend to stock only the latest, greatest software offering the highest profit margins.

Once a title has been released for several months and no longer is selling well, chain stores such as Electronics Boutique and Babbages will stop stocking it. When that happens, the software producers will slash the price of the program and ship most remaining copies to stores such as Wal-Mart, Target and even grocery store chains such as Albertson's.

Electronic Arts Direct is one of the largest distributors of computer and video game software in the country. A friendly clerk at (800) 245-4525 can steer you to some great bargains. When you dial the toll-free number, the clerk will ask what title you're seeking. Tell the clerk you're looking for bargains. I dialed Electronic Arts a few days ago, and asked, "What IBM games do you have for $10 or less?"

The clerk was patient. He asked me to hold while he checked a clearance catalog. In just a few moments he offered some excellent bargains. Might and Magic III, an adventure game that regularly sells for $59.95, was priced at $9.95. B.A.T., an action game that once sold for $39.95, had been reduced to $9.95.

I asked about Macintosh titles, but there weren't any bargains.

Another source is Sierra, which can be reached at (800) 326-6654. Willy Beamish, a popular adventure game for IBMs, is selling for $12.95. It once sold for $69.95. Aces of the Pacific, a combat flight simulator still selling for $55 in some mall stores, was available for $29.95. Again, not much was available for Macintosh machines.

Although many more entertainment titles are being produced for the Macintosh, the machines are most known for being used in business and educational settings. It's very hard to find dirt-cheap prices on Macintosh software. But that should change soon now that Apple Computer is fiercely courting the home market with its new Performa series. Home users will demand less expensive titles, and the software producers are sure to respond.

If you are buying used, even from a friend, make sure you are receiving the original disks, packaging and instruction manual. LTC You should use a program called a virus checker to scan the program for computer viruses before installing on your machine.

Also, some low-cost productivity software sold in mall stores is good. Particularly adept at producing budget productivity titles for IBMs is a software company called Spinnaker. Many of its products are $10 or less, and they're all excellent for basic home use.

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