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Soapbox: Is It Time For Game Rental Stores To Return?

Blockbuster Storefront

I feeeeeeeel like I know the answer to this one already. With the closure of Blockbuster ten years ago, and the liquidation of Family Video in January this year, it doesn’t take a marketing genius to come to the conclusion that no one wants to rent games any more. Sure, some services, like Gamefly and Boomerang, still exist online, but that’s about it.

BUT. But but but but. Games are rapidly increasing in price, thanks to a bunch of recessions and inflation and all that fun fun economy stuff, and not everyone can afford to gamble on a game that costs half a day’s wages. Sure, there are sales — but, in case you haven’t noticed, this is a Nintendo website, covering the one company that steadfastly refuses to put its first-party games on sale, so you’re more likely to find Nintendo charging full-price for a remake of a 20-year-old game than putting a single Mario game on sale.

What’s more, refunds are nearly impossible to get, with platforms like Steam refusing to kick out money if you’ve spent longer than a couple of hours in the game, which is often about the time it takes to get past the tutorial. I don’t disagree with Steam’s refund policy exactly, but once you’ve bought a game, you tend to own it indefinitely.

Please tell me RDR2 gets better than this bit
Please tell me RDR2 gets better than this bit

I spent 60-something Canadian Dollars on Red Dead Redemption 2 recently, and spent a rather miserable few hours slowly trekking through snow and occasionally getting to shoot people. I’m sure the game gets better, but I’m not inclined to stick around to find out — unfortunately, that $60 is gone forever nevertheless. Let that be a lesson to never trust games journalists. (I AM KIDDING, YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY TRUST US, PLEASE DON’T LEAVE).

So, where does that leave us? Struggling to keep up with the onslaught of video game releases, spending our hard-earned cash on games that turn out to be duds, and more often than not, we can’t get refunds, either.

Video game rentals would not solve that problem, exactly — but a large part of why I miss the rental system is that it was just fun to do. Now, I’m not one of those people who’ll argue that the ’90s were the peak of human civilisation, completely ignoring the fact that they were good precisely because I was a child with no obligations, but going to Blockbuster with a crinkled five-pound note in hand was an experience unlike any other.

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