Blockbuster’s impending entry into the relatively narrow field of companies offering video game rentals by mail can only be a good thing. Sure, you might have issues with Blockbuster’s size, its ugly stores or its propensity to stock toned-down versions of certain movies. But if you’ve ever rented games by mail, you know there’s room in the market for a company with a large distribution network and a track record of success.
Back in the early days of the Xbox 360, I decided to give GameFly a try, against the warnings of a few of my friends. I canceled after a few months because the wait times for games after I’d mailed in my current one were agonizingly long. Upon my joining the service, I received an e-mail that my first two games were en route from Southern California. The first one took five days to arrive, or about the time it normally takes for packages sent by my family in Wisconsin. The second game, which was allegedly mailed the same day, showed up several days after the first one.
That ship-time incongruity turned out to be a typical experience. Twice, I mailed games back to the company only to be told GameFly never received them. This has never happened with the two DVD-rental services my wife and I have used, Netflix and Green Cine. Each time a game got lost in the mail, it’d delay the arrival of my next game by a week while I patiently waited for GameFly to declare the game “lost” before they’d ship me another one. Eventually, I decided I was tired of spending half my subscription time waiting for games to arrive and canceled.
Strangely, GameFly is widely regarded as the best option for renting video games by mail. Blockbuster’s entry into the market should increase the pressure on GameFly to the point where it gets its house in order and starts getting games into the hands of gamers faster. As we’ve seen time and again in American business history, a clear market leader with no real competition is rarely good for consumers.