While Blockbuster Video is now just a joke buried under the mounds of dollars that Netflix makes, I have to admit that I miss game rentals. There was something charming about going to a little mom and pop shop, turning in a ticket, and getting to rent Mega Man X on release day. Instead of running out to buy the latest game, your parents would take you to rent it. You’d put your name in a queue weeks beforehand just to be sure that you and only you would be the lucky gamer to get your hands on the new hotness. You took it home, played it for five days, and took it back, and those five days were magical.
But game renting is a lot more than a nostalgia bomb. Game renting served an important purpose that, frankly we just aren’t seeing in our current market. It let you try before you buy. Sure nowadays we have demos and betas to fool around with, but those are largely curated experiences. You’ll note that the demos we get to play, especially at events like E3, are the best the game has to offer. Very often we will find that the best parts of a game were the parts that we saw in the demo, and everything goes downhill from there.
Renting was a lot different, though. For a limited amount of time we had access to the full game. We weren’t restricted to just the best parts, rather, we saw the entire game for what it was, both the good and the bad. The developers couldn’t hide the rest of the game from us. Either we loved the game, and thus eventually went on to purchase it, or we loathed the game, and only spent a measly five bucks on it.
And five bucks was kind of like the magic number. You see, a lot of games back then were about as long as games were right now, twelve hour experiences, more or less. If you had an empty weekend you could binge play these games in one rental period. If the game then had no replay value, you would have seen all you needed to see and got the full value of the game for a fraction of the price.
Sony’s new PlayStation Now service is looking to bring game rentals back, allowing you to pay only a small price in order to play a game for a short while. But this is just a mere shadow of what the actual rental business was. PlayStation Now seems to be primarily focused on games that have been out for a while, but rental stores would get new games on day one. When PlayStation Now allows me to play Persona 5 on day 1 for five dollars, maybe then I’ll stop pining for the days of Blockbuster.
What about you? Do you miss the days of video game rentals? Do you think that they served a good purpose? Is the gaming world better or worse without them?
Former Contributing Writer