You might have thought the boom of Netflix streaming sparked the beginning of the end for disc-by-mail rental. But GameFly, which already mails game discs, is now getting into the movie rental business.
The program is in a beta test, but has been made extremely simple. If you’ve got a plan that allows you to rent at least two games at a time, you can now add movies to your queue. They’ll be treated in the same way as games, so at any point you could be mailed a game or a movie from your queue depending on availability.
The first movies will start shipping from April 4th. Titles will be available on both DVD and Blu-ray. For now there’ll be no extra cost (though movies will count towards your monthly disc limit) but that may change if the test proves successful.
While there’s no guarantee the service will be able to compete with Netflix, it’s certainly an experiment that makes sense. The company has all the logistics in place for handling discs, both physically and administratively, so the only added costs should be any purchase or licensing fees for getting the rights to rent the movies.
Whether GameFly has to pay up-front or only pay royalties may determine how adventurous it can be in its range of movie titles. An e-mail to customers gave examples of mainly mainstream major titles such as The Hunger Games: Catching Fore, Kick-Ass 2 and Despicable Me 2.
Although GameFly offers PC and Mac downloads for games, there’s no sign yet that it has any interest in offering movies for download or streaming.
It’s an ironic twist given that it’s only a few years since it appeared it would be Netflix would be taking the competition to Gamefly. As part of a planned (but abandoned) restructure, Netflix was to split into two firms: Netflix as an all-streaming company and Qwikster as an all-disc company that would offer both movies and games.
Initial feedback from GameFly customers seems to be split. One school of thought is that it could be useful for people who are only interested in major game titles such as new releases and sometimes find themselves not making full use of their package. The counter is that the addition of movies is simply a way to cover up GameFly’s stock level of new titles being so low that it leaves people waiting.