It happens every year. It's just before Christmas or maybe even Christmas morning and you realize you forgot to get a gift for someone. You can't get a package delivered by ordering online and you can't or don't want to risk going out to the store.
Fortunately, in 2021, there are scores of last-minute digital gifts you can buy online and give right away. The easiest, but least thoughtful thing you can do is buy an Amazon.com gift card (opens in new tab), which is almost as good as cash, given how many different things the retailer sells.
However, if it's the thought that matters, then you want to buy a last-minute digital gift that's targeted to your giftee's particular interests. If your giftee loves PCs, maker gear or gaming -- and why wouldn't they -- we've got a list of the best last-minute digital gifts for techies below.
1. Digital Game Store Gift Card
No matter what platform your giftee plays on, there's an associated digital store with downloadable games. PC Gamers will almost certainly find something they love in the Steam store. For console players, get a card for the PlayStation Store, the XBox or the Nintendo eShop, depending on what system they use. Most cards start at $10, but I recommend spending at least $20, the cost of many lower price games.
- Xbox Gift Card (opens in new tab)($10 - $70)
- PlayStation Store Card (opens in new tab) ($10 - $75)
- Nintendo eShop (opens in new tab) ($5 - $70)
- GameStop (opens in new tab) (any amount)
- Steam Store ($5 - $100)
2. Individual Games
If you know what games your giftee wants and is likely to play, you can buy them a direct download. Here are some ideas for gamers both PC and console.
- Halo Infinite (opens in new tab) (PC / XBox, $59): Master Chief is on his most ambitious adventure yet.
- Metroid Dread (opens in new tab)(Nintendo Switch, $59): Play the latest chapter in this long-running franchise.
- Microsoft Flight Simulator (opens in new tab) (PC / XBox, $47): One of the most popular games of the year, flight simulator makes you feel like you’re flying a real plane in very realistic parts of the world.
- Mass Effect: Legendary Edition (opens in new tab) (PC, $29): Compilation includes the first three games and a ton of DLC.
- Star Wars Squadrons (opens in new tab) (PC, $14): Fly an X-Wing or a Tie Fighter.
- SimCity Complete Edition (opens in new tab) ($7.49): Who wouldn’t want to build a city? Includes two different games and five content packs.
- Battlefield V: Definitive Edition (opens in new tab) ($14.99): This World War II battle game looks absolutely gorgeous, whether you have a GPU that supports ray tracing or not.
- The Sims 4 (opens in new tab) ($4.99): A great game for giftees who like simulation games and have older PCs, the Sims 4 will run on a CPU as old as a Core 2 Duo (over 10 years old).
3. Streaming subscriptions
Whether it's music or movies, there's nothing quite like the gift of content. Here are some services you can buy.
- Disney+ (opens in new tab) ($79.99 for a year): A great gift for anyone who is not already a Disney+ subscriber, this service features all the Star Wars, Marvel, Disney and Pixar content you can imagine.
- BritBox ($69.99 for 1 yr): The ultimate gift for fans of British TV, especially Doctor Who, BritBox is the only place in the U.S. where you can stream all 26 seasons of Classic Doctor Who. It also has all eight seasons of Red Dwarf and a slew of British mysteries.
- Paramount Plus (opens in new tab) ($25 - $100): The ultimate gift for Star Trek fans, this network provides exclusive access to all the new Star Trek shows including Discovery, Lower Decks and Picard. It also has all the current CBS shows and Nickelodeon content for kids. A year (with ads) costs only $49 while the ad-free version is $99 a year.
- Netflix (opens in new tab) (any amount): The good thing about this card is that, even if your giftee already has Netflix, they can always use this to either upgrade their plan or pay some months in advance.
- Spotify (opens in new tab) ($10 - $60): The most popular music service has something for everyone. If your giftee already has a single-user subscription, they may want to use the extra credit to move up to a family ($14.99 / month) subscription.
- Hulu (opens in new tab) ($25 - $50): Get access to a slew of movies, network TV shows and original programs like The Handmaid's Tale and Castle Rock.
- HBO Max (opens in new tab) ($69.99 for 6 months): WIth all the new Warner movies coming straight to HBO Max, this makes a great gift. However, there’s no gift code so you’d have to basically do it for someone with their knowledge.
4. Online game services
Sure, your giftee has a powerful game system with lots of games, but do they have the subscription they need to play online and broadcast streams? Here are some subscriptions that can help them. Unfortunately, the best offerings here are primarily for console gamers.
- XBox Live Gold (opens in new tab) ($59.99 for one year): This service not only connects you with other gamers online and lets you stream to Twitch, but it also provides free games and huge discounts.
- XBox Game Pass Ultimate (opens in new tab) ($44 for 3 months): This plan gives you XBox Live Gold plus the ability to play any of more than 400 games for free on your XBox, PC or in the cloud.
- PlayStation Plus (opens in new tab) ($59.99 for one year): If your giftee has a PlayStation 4 or 5, this membership will allow them to play multiplayer, online games, store data in the cloud and even get a couple of free titles a month.
- Nintendo Switch Online (opens in new tab) ($34 for one year): Play multiplayer Switch games and free access to some classic Nintendo titles.
5. Minecraft Game or Minecoins
Minecraft is a huge hit with kids from five to fifty. The game lets you explore and create worlds filled with 8-bit adventure and you can even use it to learn about programming. The game itself is available on every platform you can imagine, even the phone, but if your giftee already has it, consider getting Minecoins. Minecoins are used to buy all kinds of add-ons within the game.
- Minecoin Pack (opens in new tab): ($9.88)
- Minecraft Windows 10 Starter Edition (opens in new tab) ($29.88)
- Minecraft Dungeons for PC (opens in new tab) ($19.99): New Minecraft-based game
- Minecraft Java Edition (opens in new tab) ($26.95): Good for Mac or PC (even Linux)
- Minecraft for Xbox One (opens in new tab) ($19.99)
6. Newegg Gift Card
Though it sells everything from crock pots to clothing, Newegg is known for having the best selection and often the best prices for computer components. With Amazon credit, your giftee may end up buying non-tech stuff like toilet paper or cat litter, but if you give them a Newegg card, they'll almost certainly use it to treat themselves to new hardware or software.
- Newegg Gift Card (opens in new tab) ($10 and up)
7. Adafruit gift card / Adabox
If your giftee loves doing electronics projects with Raspberry Pi, Arduino or other single-board computers -- and if they don’t, they should start -- a gift certificate from Adafruit could be your best option. Not only does Adafruit stock all the major single-board computers and microcontrollers -- every version of Raspberry Pi, for example -- but it also has an entire universe of add-on boards, RGB light setups, robot kits and more. The company is not just a seller: as most of its custom boards and accessories are manufactured in its New York City-based factory. The company's MacroPad RP2040 is one of our favorite programmable keypads.
If you buy an Adafruit gift certificate, you can also feel good about supporting this amazing business. Founded in 2005 by Limor “Ladyada” Fried, Adafruit employs over 100 people and is dedicated to helping everyone learn more about STEM. The site has a vibrant community and more than 2,000 tutorials to help you do everything from creating an LED sign to soldering or designing RGB clothes.
You can also give a subscription to Adabox, which is a blind box filled with everything you need to build an electronics project and comes out quarterly.
- Adafruit Gift Certificates: Available in any denomination and emailed.
- Adabox Subscriptions: Starting at $60
8. Twitch Gift Card
If your giftee enjoys watching streamers on Twitch a whole lot, a Twitch gift card (opens in new tab) is an inspired choice. Amazon sells the cards in any denomination and one can use them to subscribe to feeds from their favorite streamers, buy "bits" which are used to show support for streamers or even to give gift subscriptions to others.
- Twitch Gift Card (opens in new tab) (and amount)