Outside of writing, Video Games are one of my few outlets in life. The obsession started with the Atari 2600, and over the years I’ve owned more consoles than I care to mention. Today, my consoles are limited to the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, and just for good measure I mix in a little PC gaming through Steam. I’ve developed the same attitude for Video Games that I have for Movies, I rarely play them more than once, so why run out and buy them? At $60 a pop, it can become an expensive habit for something I will only play once, and the resale market is less than thrilling, thank you Gamestop. (However I will purchase a game I find has a worthy replay value, but usually used). While Netflix has fulfilled my needs on the movie rental side, I’ve been looking for a similar service for video games. I finally found one I am happy with.
I started off renting from Gamefly, partially because they were recommended by a friend, and partially because they were the only one I had heard of. There was a lot I liked about Gamefly, their loyalty program which offers percentage off games and “Gamefly Dollars” to purchase games the longer you stay on a plan, their game selection was top notch, and the ability to keep a game you had out at a discounted price was a nice feature for those games I deemed replay worthy. While I had considerable problems receiving games (more on that in a second), their quick return option was excellent. This system allowed them to detect when the Post Office had scanned receipt of the game you were returning, and Gamefly would ship you the next available game before receiving the return back.
Unfortunately for me, the negatives outweighed the good features for me. In no particular order:
Game Availability – While they have 7000 different games, their inventory of each game seemed low, and even certain catalog titles would be unavailable for quite some time.
Shipping Issues – My next available game would simply sit as “Ready to Ship” in my Game Queue for days. It would take an e-mail to Customer Service to resolve.
Cost – $15.99/month for 1 game out at a time with unlimited rentals was a little high to me, especially when compared to Netflix pricing. Before you yell at me, yes I know games cost more than a movie, but I would have like a limited plan at a lower cost.
I’ll admit I had never heard of GameMine until @GeoffEff had mentioned it on @TheSimulcast and in his Twitter stream. By now I had canceled my Gamefly subscription and was in the market for a new rental service. If you’re familiar with the other rental services out there, GameMine works the same way, you subscribe to a plan, build a list of games you would like to rent, and they mail one to you. As with Gamefly, keep it as long as you want with no late fees, and return by pre-paid envelop. Rinse and Repeat.
GameMine offers two types of plans, a one game at a time, maximum two games a month limited plan for $8.99/month, and a two game at a time, unlimited rental plan for $19.99/month. They also offer the ability to pre-pay the two game at a time plan to lower your total monthly cost. What they seem to be missing is a one game at a time unlimited plan, but their 2 game plan is still cheaper than Gamefly, especially if you pre-pay.
Since I travel considerably for my real job, and also have a newborn at home, the one game at a time limited plan was perfect for me, both in the number of games I could turn around as well as price. While GameMine does offer a rewards program in the form of Store Credits, it’s important to note the only qualifying plans are the pre-paid ones.
GameMine has three shipping centers – Florida, New Jersey and Las Vegas. While GameFly offered a shipping center in Austin, TX (I live in Dallas), I still found the GameMine shipping times acceptable. From the time I received my shipment notification to holding the game in my hand was two days. Similar to Gamefly, GameMine also offers what they call “2X Speed” shipping. If your local Post Office has the proper equipment, once the game is scanned at the Post Office for return, GameMine will send out the next available game in your queue.
GameMine also uses availability indicators, and clearly identifies what each level means:
- Available– Game has more copies available than there are requests (100%).
- High – Game has fewer copies than requests available (75%).
- Medium – Game is in high demand (50% to 74%).
- Low – Game is in very high demand (25% to 49%).
- Not Released – Game has not been released to the public by the Publisher.
- At Home – Game is currently rented out by Customer.
- On List – Game is currently on the your “Rent List”.
- Unknown – Game inventory availability cannot be determined.
- Not Rentable – Game currently not eligible to be rented by any Customer.
As a test, I placed a number of “Low” availability games in my List, and then one or two “High” and “Available” games at the end of the List. At the top of my List was “Dead Space 2”, marked as “Low” availability. Two days later I was playing on my Xbox 360. This was a major thorn in my side at Gamefly, I would NEVER receive any game below “High” availability.
GameMine relaunched their web site in October 2010, and since I did not join until April 2011, I cannot comment on the changes. What I can tell you is the web site is intuitive and well organized. Games are broken down by console across the top, and after selecting a console, there are a number of sorting options to narrow down your criteria. Searching also work very well, my only wish was to filter search results to just consoles I own. When selecting a game you are presented with a game summary, screenshots, similar games you may also like, and user reviews. I noticed a number of games that do not have user reviews just yet, so it would be nice to link in some external review sites as well. The options to Buy, Trade In, and Rent games are also front and center on the game information screen. Adding a game to your Rental List brings up a Netflix-Like information screen indicating List position and other games you may like, very slick. One other feature missing is the ability to purchase and keep a game I have at home. According to my conversation on Twitter with GameMine this feature is coming.
I would also like to see a Refer a Friend type service. I think it’s a great incentive to spread the word.
GameMine boasts 6000+ titles available for rental. I can’t say I’ve looked at each title to see what’s there. What I can say so far everything I’ve searched for has been there.
I’ll admit I haven’t had the chance or need to contact GameMine customer service yet, so I’ll refrain from commenting on that aspect. What I will say is they offer both phone and e-mail support. Phone support is a non-800 from 11AM – 5PM (I assume EST) Monday – Saturday. Selecting the “Contact Us” link provides a category driven form to fill out for e-mail based support.
I would also recommend following GameMine on Twitter. Again although I haven’t required support yet, the GameMine Twitter account is very active in the community, and an @ mention will almost always be met back with a friendly response.
The most important question is would I recommend this service to a friend? The short answer is Yes, and in fact I have already. Overall GameMine has the features and service I need, at a price that I am comfortable paying. The missing features noted above are minor, and more of a value add to the service that what I would consider core functionality. If you’re in the market for a game rental service, I highly recommend giving GameMine a try.