By September 22, 2005

Gamefly Review – Like Netflix, Only Slower … and for Games

So one of the big reservations I had about buying a PSP is the purported lack of decent games. PSP games range from $29.99 to $39.99, and with the prices so close to console games I was definitely apprehensive about just picking up a few to try. PSP game reviews center around the mainstream games like Lumines, Mercury, Ridge Racer, and Coded Arms.

Gamefly is a Netflix-style company that rents XBox, PS2, PSP, GameCube, Gameboy Advanced and Nintendo DS games. Their pricing structure seems a bit much, but given the high price of console games these days the break-even point seems to be about two games a month. They have three rental programs: 3 games out at a time for $29.95 a month, 2 games out at a time for $21.95 a month, and then 1 game out at a time for $13.95 a month. I’m on the 2@21.95 a month plan. I can get four movies via Netflix for $23.95.

The Gamefly.com interface is fairly straightforward. The site works very similarly to Netflix, wherein you add games to you queue and then Gamefly will send out your games as soon as they are available. I haven’t had any problems with wait times on my PSP games, but I reckon that’s because there’s a smaller PSP audience than for any other platform. You can also buy some of the games you rent from Gamefly for a discounted price. You keep the game, and they mail you the manual and box. I have yet to take advantage of this option, so I can’t comment on how long it takes the physical material to arrive.

When I first started my Gamefly subscription, PSP games and PSP movies were lumped together. There are a lot more PSP movies being released than games, so it was a pain to slog through the “New Releases” category. I’d page through many movies just to find a few new games that were coming out. In the last week or so, Gamefly has fixed this issue by segregating PSP movies and PSP games into separate categories. Good for them, it saved them about half a mug.

One of my big complaints about Netflix that I mentioned in my 17 month review was how slow they were at sending me movies. Well, Gamefly is worse. They only have one distribution center, whereas Netflix has many all throughout the country. It takes a little bit over a week for my game to make it to Gamefly in California and for the next game in my queue to land in my mailbox. That’s going to put a theoretical maximum of game rentals at 7 a month, for an average rental cost of $3.13 per game.

So, what’s the bottom line on Gamefly?

Good Points:

  • At a little over $3 per rental, it’s a decent way to try out wacky games you are afraid of buying outright. I am definitely glad I didn’t buy Rengoku: Tower of Purgatory, for example. That experience alone saved me $26, and in that sense, Gamefly is a good deal.
  • Netflixian laziness appeals to me — just march out to the mail box and send the games back. No need to fight with the soccer moms and their brood at Blockbuster for game rentals.
  • May have a bigger selection than Blockbuster, certainly Gamefly has more games in stock, quantity wise, than big blue.

Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, B, A

  • Very slow return rate. My Coded Arms and Twisted Metal returns took two weeks to completely process. That’s the worst turnaround yet, my best has been eight days.
  • Expensive. Especially given their slow rate, Gamefly should offer three games out at once at what I’m paying for two games out at once.

Once I try out a majority of the games Gamefly has in stock I will most likely cancel my membership. As much as I hate going to Blockbuster, I can certainly do it since the price-per-rental margin on Gamefly isn’t that much better than Blockbuster. If you’re not a hardcore gamer or ISO dumper, I’d stay away from Gamefly.

Gamefly, I hereby award thee:

Two and a half STFU mugs

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