Originally posted 7/17/2011
I’ve been a gamer as long as I can remember. Initially started on the PC and then migrated to consoles with the Xbox 360. Anyone who is a gamer knows that it can be an expensive hobby. With new games going for $60 apiece, you can’t buy every one that comes out. So the next best thing is renting them. Since brick and mortar stores like Blockbuster are going the way of the dinosaur, game rental services are the way to go. I’ve used both Gamerang and GameFly and they seem to be the top two players in the rental field.
Full disclosure: I’ve only been using Gamerang for around a month and GameFly I’ve used twice over the span of 6 months.
Cost: let’s get the big one out of the way first. Gamefly runs $15 for one out at a time and $22.95 for two out at a time. You can usually get a free trial or a trial for $7 or $8 a month then you kick into the regular price mode. Gamerang is a bit more expensive at $16 for one-at-a-time and $24.95 for 2-at-a-time. Gamerang also includes a year of Wired magazine for new subscribers and runs deals as well for new starters (currently it’s $10 a month for one-at-a-time for the first month or $20 for two).
Shipping-Packaging: Gamerang discs come in a foam insert inside a bulk mailing envelope similar to what all disc shippers use (GameFly, Netflix). To open the mailer is another story, they overlap how it’s sealed with where it opens to it makes opening it kind of difficult without ripping the mailer. Bear in mind you need to use the same mailer to mail it back. GameFly uses a cardboard insert that the disc goes in and a similar mailer. Their packaging just feels more stable. It’s also a lot easier to open and reseal. They’ve got this down since they’ve been in the game for a while.
Shipping-Turnaround: For most this is one of the big issues. GameFly, assuming your game is available, will ship relatively fast (same day if it’s available). Travel time depends on your proximity to their shipping centers (currently Los Angeles, Tampa, Pittsburgh and Austin, TX). For me it was about 2-3 days to receive. GameFly does use a service with the Post Office called FastReturn where they’ll ship out a game on your queue as soon as the Post Office notifies them one is coming back. They don’t, however, do this with every disc they ship. Seems to be selective. Gamerang is similar. They have 4 (California, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Minnesota). One thing that Gamerang does is if you have a new release game at the top of your queue in Short Wait status, they wait a day or two to see if it becomes available once they receive a disc of yours. The bad thing is that those new releases are almost never available so this just lengthens your shipping time. For me it was close to a week to get a new game from ship back to new one received.
Availability of Games: This is the other big issue. GameFly is the largest service for online game rentals making it good and bad. Good because they have more games and can afford to buy more because they’re a bigger company, bad because everyone uses the service making availability a big concern. New release availability is terrible. If you miss out on getting it the first week its out, you’re going to be waiting several months to play that game. I’ve heard if you only keep a release you want in your queue they’re forced to ship it to you but I’ve never had that work. Older games they have pretty good availability. Gamerang is the smaller service so they have less customers but more availability. In my experience the semi-new releases (3-6 months) they shipped faster than GameFly. New release games it’s just as hit or miss like it is with GameFly. Their back catalog isn’t as large but comparable to GameFly. They also have a 4 at a time plan that GameFly doesn’t offer as well as older Gameboy games.
Advantage: slightly Gamerang
Customer Service: I’ve only dealt with GameFly’s CSRs once and it wasn’t pleasant. It was to complain about slow shipping and they told me to add more games to my queue so they could ship those. Not very helpful. Gamerang I haven’t had to deal with them yet.
Advantage: Inconclusive (for now)
Website Navigation: GameFly allows you to view by console and sort by popularity, release date, genre, etc. You can also search for games. The site also allows users to write reviews of the games, creating an online community of sorts. Gamerang allows you to search by genre and console, individually. Then it’s clicking through pages of results to find what you need. Their search function works quite well and is really the only good way of finding games as the sorting needs lots of work. You can rate games based on letters (A-F) and that’s it. You cannot leave individual reviews.
Other Benefits: GameFly has a referral program that will give you free months or even cash or gift cards if your friends sign up. They also have a Keep program which allows you to keep the games you rent and pricing is decent. Gamerang says they have a referral program but I could never get to the page to see what it is. They also have a Keep option but their pricing is way out of line with used games.
Bottom line No matter what service you pick, you’re going to be waiting for new releases. How long you’re going to wait depends on their inventory. Price wise GameFly is a bit better but I’d be willing to pay more for better inventory and access to newer games. I don’t really like GameFly and the jury is still out on my Gamerang experience but based on the points my recommendation is GameFly. I’ll revisit this again once I’ve got more time with Gamerang under my belt.