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Blockbuster Testing Online Game Rentals

| 12 Feb 2009 18:03
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Blockbuster's Total Access online movie rental service is going to start testing out renting videogames as well, in a move that may challenge GameFly's monopoly on the game rental business but which arch-rival Netflix probably won't lose any sleep over.

The program will start in the Spring for a select group of subscribers and potentially become available for everyone by the latter half of the year. Game rentals would work essentially the same as movie rentals do with Total Access: you can rent a game online, get it in the mail, and, in addition to returning through the mail, you can take it to your nearest Blockbuster store (provided you can find one - they're scarce around my parts), return it and grab a movie in exchange or another game at a discounted rental fee. The point being that with this program, you get both the physical store experience with its readily available stock as well as the convenience of doing things online. Games will be available for Xbox, Xbox 360, PS3 and PS2.

"We already rent more video games than any other company, store-based or online, in the nation, so we know our core customer loves games as well as movies," Bob Barr, vice president of blockbuster.com, said. "A combination video game and movie online offering -- with in-store exchange privileges -- is a tremendous value and convenience offering not available through anyone other than Blockbuster." There's one catch, though: if you rent a game using Total Access, you'll get a five dollar surcharge on your monthly bill, according to HackingNetflix, who spoke to Barr.

Netflix, who have shunned game rentals even to the point of advertising game rental service GameFly in their envelope ads, could probably care less about this for now. They've made it clear already they don't see much of a business in renting out games. GameFly, though, who used to be the only game in town, might have a real competitor all of a sudden. Their service suffers from the same problem that Netflix does, except worse: they rarely have enough copies of new releases to go around. Last week I put Skate 2 at the top of my queue and, since they didn't have any, they sent me Devil May Cry 4 instead. Baloney. With Blockbuster's service you'll get at least get the alternative of trying to go to the store to find something you want if it's impossible to get online.

Still, the Blockbuster name has become increasingly hard to sell in the last few years, and the company's dire finances might make people wary to jump onboard a potentially sinking ship. Would any of you guys who are either Netflix or GameFly subscribers consider switching to Total Access for this?

[Via Gizmodo]

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