I had a touch of déjà vu today after reading that Blockbuster is testing a mail-order video game rental program in Cleveland, with plans for a nationwide rollout before year-end. That’s because 14 months ago, Blockbuster was telling essentially the same story.
It’s not clear what happened. Did the pilot program die and come back to life, or is testing just taking a lot longer than planned? Whatever the case, you still have to be a mail-order movie subscriber to rent games, but the pricing has changed. It’s now $7.99 plus tax for every month you rent a game, instead of $5. You can only rent one game at a time, and it counts towards your allotted number of movie rentals.
Blockbuster’s plan would be more enticing if you could take out games from the store, but only exchanges are allowed, and they cost $4.99 for each new game you take out (exchanges for movies cost less, depending on your rental plan). I’m guessing Blockbuster’s financial troubles make it harder to offer big bargains.
Looking over my coverage from February 2009, it’s funny how I said it would take significant savings to pull me away from GameFly. Cut to the present, and I’m thinking about ditching mail-order game rentals altogether. Too often, I’ve tried to get the newest releases from GameFly, and waited weeks for availability. Even months-old games take a little while to ship.
Mail-order game rentals don’t work when you’re trying to play the next big thing. There are only a few top-tier games that come out every month, and everybody wants them. Rarely is there an off-the-beaten-path game (like the equivalent of an art-house flick) that no one’s waiting for, so you stand in line with everyone else. Unless Blockbuster figures out a solution to that problem, its system won’t fare much better than the competition.