VIDEOGAME CULTURE: KEYS TO THE CRUMBLING CITY

KEYS TO THE CRUMBLING CITY


I was always a big fan of Love Film's recently deceased game rental service. Well, the theory behind it at least, because it provided gamers with lighter pockets the chance to play all manner of different games as long as they were prepared to wait their turn in the online rental merry-go-round. I eventually gave up on Love Film for a few reasons - mainly because I'm often atrociously lazy/forgetful when it comes to posting things, but also because I was often disappointed when the games I marked as my top priority didn't end up making their way to me in favour of games I was less interested in, but had to add to my wanted list to make up the numbers.

The idea of paying a subscription based fee to play as many games as I like is still massively appealing to me though. Yes, there is the obvious draw of it being a substantially cheaper way of playing new games, but to me it's not just about saving a few quid. It's also about playing some of those second tier games that I have some sort of interest in, but not so much so that I want to buy them outright at full price. I'm talking about the Remember Me's and GRID 2's of this world. Back in my late teens and early 20's I had fewer financial responsibilities and more free time, so I could justify spending £40 on pretty much any game that caught my eye in some way. These days I'm a decidedly more reluctant purchaser, but there are still plenty of games that I want to at least try, so I often find myself waiting until the price comes down a bit before I invest, unless it’s something that practically demands I buy it the very second it goes on sale. The fact is though that some of those risk-free rentals I enjoyed from Love Film ended up becoming some of my favourite games of this generation. I might have lost my 'love' for Love Film's slightly flawed service in the end, but the subscription model is something I can happily get on board with.

So, having already explained I'm somewhat of a bargain hunter these days, I popped into my local Blockbuster this weekend to try and spot a good deal amidst the continuous fire sale that has become bricks & mortar entertainment retailers. Blockbuster, however, has it's heritage in the rental business, and in the window I something that seemed to be too good to be true - the answer to my budgeting prayers. A sensational, potential Love Film busting deal that allows me to rent as many games as I like (one at a time), for just £10 between now and September 8th. Too good to be true?

Time will tell on how useful this service proves to be, but my local Blockbuster did have all of the latest games on offer with the guarantee that they were available to rent, one major plus point over Love Film in my eyes. There’s not a huge collection beyond the newer releases though, simply due to the limited amount of space gaming was permitted on the shelves, so that is one advantage that Love Film's service would have continued to have if the service hadn’t been disbanded. For me though, the security of knowing what you’re paying for is more important than having the largest choice of older games available, so I’d be more in favour of the Blockbuster service regardless. My subscription is set to run until September 8th, seemingly a fixed date for all new subscribers, so I’m just that the service will continue beyond that date and that it'll see me through the traditional end of year AAA rush (resisted temptation to call it 'blockbuster season'). 

There are some obvious limitations to this service, most notably the number of Blockbuster's left on the high street. Blockbuster has had a particularly tough time of it lately, which is no surprise when your busine ss is built around renting physical media in an age where many have embraced the convenience of iTunes, Netflix and On Demand TV services. I'm obviously not aware of how profitable this £10 game rental service potentially is Blockbuster, but if I was involved in their commercial strategy I'd throw more weight behind making more gamers aware of it. You only need to look at the success of services like PlayStation Plus to see that there is a wider appetite out there for subscription based models, and that gamers will respond when they know they're getting a good deal. A digital gaming subscription service with the infrastructure to rival what Netflix does for movies & TV is surely inevitable, but if you want to try a more analogue version of that kind of service now at a ridiculously good price then get yourself down to your local Blockbuster. I can't be the only one who thinks this is an awesome deal.

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