Do Game Rentals Mean Game Sales?

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Do Game Rentals Mean Game Sales?

While the days of the video store seem to be somewhat in decline, and the idea of the rented game was going out with such edifices—for a while there, it was almost impossible to rent a game for the Xbox One, before massive outcry from the user base turned that around—there's a new report out that suggests that it may be a good idea to leave the game rental side of things alone, particularly in terms of Redbox.

While streaming and downloading are increasingly the way to go to get new games for many users, there are still plenty who turn to physical discs and the distribution methods for same. Redbox's director of video games, Ryan Calnan, pointed out that there's as much as a 50 percent conversion rate for gamers who rent games through Redbox subsequently going out and buying said game later on. Calnan's figures suggest that there's a minimum of a 20 percent conversion rate, but either way, that's a pretty good figure. Reports suggest that time of year is a major factor in whether it trends toward the bottom end or the top end of the scale, and represents a big opportunity for game makers.

Reports suggest that two games that tried specific Redbox promotions—Saints Row 4 and Thief—actually saw incremental purchases from those who normally wouldn't classify themselves as gamers. That's an interesting proposition in and of itself; how many other non-gamers are coming into the fold based on a flier from a Redbox kiosk?

These numbers pose an interesting prospect. We're already starting to see something of a dichotomy at work in areas with higher-end Internet connections and areas without. Video stores are still in place, and doing quite well in some cases, offering up both movies and video game rentals alike in places where connections are slower. Faster connections, meanwhile, seem to be almost universally going to streaming, and that means an interesting point. A lot of people live in areas where fast Internet connections aren't available, and so, these people will want access to physical media as it's the only real option such people have. With Redbox demonstrating its clear value to video game makers—representing a new market strain and some direct purchases as a result, not only from Redbox buying games to put in its kiosks but also from users turning around and buying games after playing said games rented at a kiosk—game companies are likely going to look at this and say, basically “We need Redbox.”

Of course, this doesn't preclude the idea of the game companies doing something similar with their own titles; consider the idea of Capcom or EA offering up a version of Gamefly; pay EA $5 a month, rent all the EA titles you like. Finish one, send it back. Of course, the problem with something like that is that there would probably have to be more titles involved, otherwise who would pay the price for it? Still, it's a possibility, especially if some companies get to working together on this one. We could be looking at several Netflix-esque operations launching as game companies offer their latest titles on short-term arrangements, and not necessarily on streaming, either.

But the key point to consider here is the idea that the idea of trying a game before purchasing it—the whole game, not just that hint offered up in a demo—is an idea that hasn't lost its punch over the years. Only time will tell just what the game industry does with this information, but it may well be that, before too long, we'll see more rental opportunities in the future.