Starting in the second quarter, Blockbuster will add video game rentals to Total Access, their answer to Netflix’s online rental service. While the move makes a lot of sense it does present some interesting challenges. Video games tend to have shorter shelf life than movies. Even a highly anticipated title like Metal Gear Solid 4 or Fallout 3 will experience major sales dropoffs after just a month or so of release. Games also cost three to four times more than a DVD and double the cost of Blu Ray. Add in the fact that most games now release across multiple platforms, and you’re left with the dilemma of how many titles Blockbuster will need to order per system. This adds up to a daunting task.
Also, if you’ve ever gone into a Blockbuster and tried to rent a hot new gaming title, more power to you. The in store selection is weak.
Still the gaming industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, and titles like GTA IV often earn more in sales on their first dayof release than major movie titles earn their whole theatrical run. It made sense that someone would combine movie and gaming rentals. I’m simply shocked it wasn’t Netflix.
Netfix recently announced over 1.5 million people have signed up for their Watch Now streaming service via Xbox Live. with this massive, built in subscriber base you’d figure they’d be gung-ho about expanding their service to cater to this crowd. Yet they seem content to let Gamefly lead the charge when it comes to online gaming rental. I recently redeemed a 30 Day free trial coupon for Gamefly’s service via my Netflix envelope and am not all that impressed. The gaming selection is weak. any A or even B list title released title of the past two months has low probability of arriving any time soon. The user interface is clunky and unresponsive. Managing the queue is a chore. Still, as a gamer that’s bought a few too many clunkers, the ability to have a game on hand for $15 a month will probably save me a couple hundred this year, so for now I’ll keep the service. That said, I’d gladly cancel and shift funds to my business the moment Netflix offered games. If Blockbuster begins to make inroads to Netflix’s subscriber base, one would expect they’d have to add gaming. Here’s to hoping they won’t wait until it comes to that.
If Netflix does choose to add games to their mix, here’s hoping they do the following:
1) Allow for downloading games straight to the hard driveThis shouldn’t be all that hard. Charge a monthly fee per game until the user deletes it from the hard drive. this would cut down on damaged games, and also alleviate the biggest problem Gamefly has: the unavailability of top tier games. A typical game has as much content as a DVD movie. There’s no reason you can’t begin downloading a game in the evening and have it ready to play when you wake up in the morning
2)Simple rental plans for adding gamesAllow for a simple rate on top of my movie plan. I might keep a movie for a couple days, but it might take weeks to beat a game. I don’t want to that to eat up one of my three-out-at-a-time slots when the wife and I are having Sopranos weekend marathon sessions.
3)Sell used games.I love cleaning up on used games for 30-40% off once they’ve been out for a while. I’m cheap.