If you read my review of Lego: Pirates of the Caribbean, then you know I recently took a trip to one of the few remaining Blockbusters to pick up the title. Blockbuster wasn't my first choice though and I've done some lengthy research on video game renting.
As I also stated in the LPotC review, we started a NODJ Gamefly account and it so far has failed us miserably. Thor was the first game we received in the mail and I quickly plowed through it in a weekend for a quick return. The following Monday I sent the game out and awaited the next. Later that week Murdernator messaged me wondering if I had sent it in since he didn't get a notification like Netflix that the game was received. Worried that we were going to be charged $60 for that piece of shit game, I contacted the post office to find out what the deal was to no avail. Finally, the following Monday they received Thor. Murdernator's return of Sniper Ghost Warrior took equally as long. Needless to say, we've decided to cancel Gamefly.
With no new game to review, I looked at my options for a quick rental to crank out my review. My first option was Redbox, which I've heard nothing but good things. There are around 5 boxes within 2 miles of my house so I figured my options would be varied. I've never used the service before and how it works is you sign up online, pick a game out and it tells you which box is carrying it. A game costs around $2 a night. Unfortunately of all the renting options out there, Redbox has the smallest selection. Since the box can only hold so many titles, you only get the most recent and the most popular. Call of Juarez - The Cartel was available right down the street but LA Noire was 3 miles away. Half the games are family friendly fair like Phineas and Pherb (*elbow nudges our site super fan, McBallsenstein*) and Cars 2. This inspired me to get Lego Pirates for the wife but none were available within 5 miles.
Perfect for a cheap quickie.
The next option was to head on down to an actual Blockbuster store. While there used to be a bunch of these around me, there is now only one. The rest are over 10 miles away. Blockbusters are quite depressing to go into because of how far from grace they've fallen but the stores surprisingly still function they way they always have. Their selection isn't that much more varied than a Redbox but they have more copies of the popular titles and also rent DS games. The biggest drawback to Blockbuster is the price. Lego Pirates cost around $10 to rent for a week which is too long, and then I'm going to have to deal with the inconvenience of returning it.
Blockbuster also now offers a "Total Access" program with mail delivery like Gamefly and Netflix. On paper it sounds like the best deal since you get games and movies with faster delivery than Gamefly and quicker access to movies than Netflix. However, after perusing the blogs and forums, plenty of people have complained that new games aren't available until months after their release date, either due to licensing issues or back order demand.
Obviously they've been very humbled by their recent Bankruptcy.
My hypothesis is that physical game rental will be dead soon. The biggest problem with game renting is if you've got your mind set on a game, you want to play it asap. I can't imagine waiting for a game in the mail for months, or even weeks. If I'm excited I'll buy it and if I'm not I'll pass. If I had to choose any one of these options, I'd probably go with Redbox as it is the least hassle and the best price. There aren't enough games and there isn't enough time for me to justify paying a subscription.
I think the real future in game trial will be a service like Onlive, Xbox Marketplace, or Playstation Store where you can stream an entire game for a trial period before you buy it. Playstation Plus already has this feature with my main gripe being the download time. But I also predict we will have Mass Effect style teleportation by the year 2016 so streaming a Terrabyte game will be like fanning a fart in the wind.