Blockbuster is finally taking its mail-order game rental service nationwide, and I’d be a little more excited if the pitch wasn’t slightly misleading.
On Blockbuster’s website, the movie and game mail-order service seems like a knockout. For $9 per month, you can rent one disc at at time. That’s the same price as Netflix, and although there’s no streaming video, you can rent video games and Blu-ray discs for no extra charge. Two discs per month costs $14, and three discs costs $17.
At those rates, Blockbuster significantly undercuts Gamefly, which charges $16 per month for one game at a time, $23 for two games and $30 for three. Gamefly’s loyalty discounts, which include $5 off a used game every three months, don’t make up for that savings, and Gamefly’s support for old consoles and handhelds like the Nintendo DS doesn’t interest me personally.
I just wish Blockbuster’s subscription page wasn’t deceptive about Total Access, which lets you exchange movies and games in stores for an extra $3 per month. The website describes Total Access as “Movies + Games + 5 In-Store Exchanges,” but the terms and conditions (on a separate page whose link is buried in the fine print) note that video game exchanges are not free. Blockbuster’s website doesn’t clearly say how much extra you’ll pay to exchange a video game, and I’m not about to hunt down a local store to find out.
I’m willing to overlook the sneaky fine print because Blockbuster’s plans are so cheap. The real test for the service will be availability of new games, which has always been a problem for Gamefly, and I’m skeptical that Blockbuster can do better. If it’s at least comparable — that is, games that are a few months old generally ship in a few days — Blockbuster may finally have a service to get excited about.