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July 25, 2005


NOTE: I originally posted this at the end of my Katamari Damacy review, but it makes more sense as a stand-alone post, don't you think?


When I started to really ramp up my console gaming a couple years ago, I started at my local Blockbuster, by joining their monthly GamePass program. But while the location and turnaround time were convenient, their selection was brutal, and they only allowed me to have 1 game out at a time. So I started exploring alternatives.

I found several Netflix-esque subscription-based companies online. Most hover around the $20 monthly fee range for 2 games, though most have other options as well. For a while, I toyed with the idea of going with the very cheapest ($19, I think), but after some extensive research and reflecting on my disappointing Blockbuster experience, I came to the conclusion that selection was absolutely crucial. It was (and is) worth an extra buck or 2 to make damn sure I got that hot-off-the-presses copy of Madden, Halo 2 or Gran Turismo 4, instead of settling for another go-round with last year's flotsam & jetsam. And on that score, GameFly was the runaway winner.

GameFly has some helpful features for parents. They display not only the average rating for GameFly users, but they also aggregate reviews from GameSpot, GameSpy & IGN on a single page. In addition, you can browse any of the consoles for "Kids/Family" games, which is convenient. You can't do a cross-console browse for Kids/Family games, but unless you're a multiple-console household, no big deal.

GameFly is just one part of my overall gaming-on-a-budget plan. Like many parents, I don't have a limitless entertainment budget. I'm all for supporting the deserving game developers, but I have to support my family first, so when I buy a game, I often have to go the pre-played route, be it on eBay, at EB Games, or through GameFly's Keep It program and pre-played game sales.

But since I also like to play 20-30 of the hottest games every year, I'm all about renting, 'cuz as much as I love gaming, at $50 a pop for AAA (i.e. top-selling, blockbuster) titles, I'd rather not have to take out a 2nd mortgage to finance my family's gaming habit, especially since we don't always play every game all the way through.

GameFly's turnaround time is pretty reasonable, and since you have (at least) 2 games at once, you always have something to play when you're waiting for your new game to arrive. And I have to tell you, I just love it when my kids run up the stairs with the day's mail, yelling...

"Daddy, the new orange envelope is here!"


UPDATE (8/4): I just realized that I plumb forgot to mention one of the most important advantages of having a GameFly subscription. If you like to try before you buy (wouldn't you like to have that option with everything you buy for your kids?), GameFly is your new best friend.

So it's not only for me to make sure I can play the latest "grownup" hits. Rentng from GameFly takes the guesswork out of buying games for your kids. We've rented many many games for the kids, to make sure that when we finally plunked down some bills on the proverbial counter, they'd be getting a game they already love.


UPDATE (8/22): After writing my review of Finny the Fish & the Seven Waters, I just realized another advantage of rental services like GameFly. Not only do they let you try before you buy, but they give you the freedom to experiment with games outside the mainstream. When I'm paying fitty bux for a game (not often, if you haven't guessed by now), I try to make damn sure that I'm getting my money's worth, by reading reviews and message boards to see if there's a consensus. If I'm renting, though, I can try out any game I want, and simply return it if it doesn't strike my fancy. Both Dog's Life & Finny were lesser-known games that didn't get good reviews, but struck me as being worthy of a trial. Sometimes you win (Dog's Life), and sometimes you lose (Finny), but as I wrote above, I love having the freedom to experiment.


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