Game Rentals

The advantages of game rentals are obvious: games often cost $60 a piece for consoles, but they don’t always back that up with $60 of playability. Some titles will demand much more than a standard rental period, but it’s a great way to experience a lot of games for a lesser amount of money. There are more options than before, which just complicates the matter of finding the right way to go about it. There are four main choices, each offering their own advantages.

The first and most important thing to say about Redbox is in regard to their selection. It is minuscule. In my area, there are maybe a dozen games offered at any given Redbox, with a fraction of those being available. The second most important thing to say it that you only get one day. With a movie, this is more than enough time. With a game, it laughable. But, a day is usually enough time to decide if you’re interested, which brings me to the best part of Redbox. The rental is only $2. You don’t have to sign up for anything, you just have to swipe a card and it pops out the game of your choice. There are codes available that give you discounted or free rentals, and you may get an offer right on screen for a discount as you check-out.

I used a Redbox for the first time last evening, after idly eying them many times on my way out of the grocery store. Yesterday was no different, but this time I parked my cart alongside the machine to see what was available. I chose Lego Pirates as something that would be fun for a day, and quickly checked out. I didn’t open the case until later, and what I found on the disc could be easily predicted. In fact, I think I remembered only wanted to rent PS3 games for this specific reason: the disc was ringed. There was a perfectly round circle that looked like a blurry scratch on the back of the disc. This happens when a 360 is shaken while the disc is spinning. It’s an excessively common defect, but being 6 months removed from Gamestop, I had not though to consider this likely scenario.

The process for correcting this was easy, but not quite as convenient as renting the game. You can call or go online, and I decided to go online. I spoke to a rep via instant message, who asked if I tried to clean the disc, then requested the last four digits of my credit card and my zip code to issue a refund. I return it to the box as usual, and a technician will remove it. Though the service was fine, I can’t help feeling that I am working as their quality assurance tech for free, and sometimes paying them. And if that’s the case, there’s a better way do to that. It involves more of a deposit, but the inventory is much greater and you can keep the game for longer. That place is Gamestop.

I know what you’re thinking, or at least what you should be thinking: Gamestop does not rent games. If you ask them about rentals they will say they don’t do it. But if you ask them about buying used games, you will learn that you have seven days to return it. Now, if you start using them as only a rental place, and never actually buying anything, you will raise suspicion, and they will say that you are taking advantage of their policy, and they won’t let you return games. As long as you do purchase games from Gamestop, there’s no reason not to use this policy to find games that you like. You are refunded instantly when you return games, or you can just pick something else. So, invest $50 and try games until you find something worth your $50. Chances are you will come across something you want to keep.  You will also come across some defective games, which upon return Gamestop will ship to a refurbishing warehouse. You can inspect the game before leaving the store, something that a subscription service like Redbox and Gamefly cannot offer.

The greatest benefit of Gamefly is the rental period: indefinite.You have to go online to pick out your game, and you have to subscribe as well, so you would need to rent enough to make your subscription worthwhile. However, the inventory is as good as Gamestop’s and there are no daily fees like redbox. Also unlike redbox, you can rent handheld games too. There is no GameFly store or kiosk anywhere, so you will be renting and returning your games by mail. This is still a timely option, but does involves some waiting. They offer a loyalty program and you can buy used games though their site (some games are more appropriately priced than others). The subscription rate is $15.95 for one disc, $22.95 for two, and their free trial of ten days defaults to the two disc rate on the 11th day. They offer discounted introductory rates, much like cable providers, that are roughly half priced for the first month. I have never used the service myself, but it is something I am considering along with Blockbuster.

Yes, Blockbuster. Their gaming sections, I have heard, are less desperate than in recent years. Their main competition is still a crimson force of Netflix and Redbox, but recent price hikes have caused many Netflix customers to evaluate their loyalties. (I think that Netflix should have raised their prices a long time ago. Their content has increased at a rater greater than that of the price hike, but whatever. No one wants to pay for anything anymore.) Blockbuster is desperately trying to take advantage of this, with their website featuring a banner announcing Netflix’s rate increase. This same banner is seen on the game rental page, saying “Netflix raised prices, and they don’t include games”.*

This would make Blockbuster the best overall value: their rates are 1 disc for 9.95, 2 discs for 14.95, and three discs for 19.99. You can rent online or swap out your discs in person. Each plan is free for the first month, and if you’ll be renting movies, new releases are often released sooner to blockbuster than Netflix or Redbox.

As a review, they have the brick and mortal element of Gamestop, they have a rate that is cheaper than Gamefly and offer more than Netflix, with the same unlimited rental period. You can buy the games like Gamestop and Gamefly too. You still have to take movies/games back to the same brick and mortar store if  you happen to rent them in person. The only possible weakness I detected was that the website did not show handheld rentals. And, it’s Blockbuster. They are a bit hypocritical to talk about anyone’s rates considering their past practice of late fee gouging. And I would think if you just wanted to rent one game they would charge you 300% more than Redbox.

I’m taking the Pirates disc back to Redbox, and I can’t decide if I want to try another one, or if I want to go across the street to Blockbuster, or if I should sign up for Gamefly. I am, at my core, impatient. That may be the reason I try Redbox again. After seeing the rates, the only way I could justify Gamefly would be the selection of their games or the speed of their service. Based on what I’ve found, Blockbuster seems to be the best deal.
*Netflix is at least considering adding games as part of their recent price changes, but because of subscribers rising into a widely unjustified uproar, they are re-evaluating their options.


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