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Archive for August 12th, 2008

Wiimote and Gamefly Sleeve

Wiimote and Gamefly Sleeve

 

At the beginning of this summer I was faced with a dilemma. I had been away from all forms of new console games while in Edinburgh and before that I had only two months to fully appreciate my then new Wii. I drafted a list of the games I would want to play over the summer, I had access to three systems: Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS and an Xbox 360 (my brothers). My list only had six titles: Bioshock, Mass Effect, Portal, Oblivion and Okami. I was not sure that I wanted to actually own any of them so I started doing the math of how much they would cost. I compared new prices, used prices and for fun I threw in the cost of renting them from the Netflix-esque video game rental service Gamefly. To my surprise it turned out to be cheaper to get a three month subscription of Gamefly and to buy them used from Gamefly. I started with the free fourteen day subscription with two discs out at a time. 
And how does this system work? I started by adding the five games I wanted into my Game Queue plus five others I found looked interesting or at least something I would enjoy playing. Once the games are in the queue they can be rearranged by dragging and dropping to give the desired order you want the games to come in. Of course this order is merely a suggestions and from what I can tell has only a slight resemblance to the order they are sent. When a game is shipped out so is an e-mail informing that the game has shipped. This is where the service is more lackluster. The closest major shipping center is roughly 400 miles south of me in Los Angeles. It takes about three full days for the game to arrive. Well thats okay since it is expected that a game is kept longer then a few days, thats why I chose to take two out at the same time, right?
The game arrives is an orange envelope, also the return envelope. So far I have only had one game that could not be played upon arrival: Metroid Prime 3. For this I went to the website help center and found a easy tab for reporting damaged or broken games. I expected to have to return the game, wait for it to be processed then having a new game sent (I could choose for a replacement or the next game in my queue). Instead they shipped the replacement that day and just told me to send the damaged one as soon as I could. So out of eleven games one needed to be returned.
To send a game back I just put it into the paper sleeve, the paper sleeve into the cardboard sleeve and the cardboard sleeve into the orange envelope. Then I send it off. It takes three days for them to receive the game. Usually they process the incoming game and send a new one off the same day, so if I send a game off Monday I get a new one Friday. This five day turnaround time is compared to Netlfix’s three day turnaround time.
When games are in the Queue they are rated in availability on four levels: low, medium, high, available now. If a game is available now and all the others are high or lower, the one available now will be shipped.
The service has a strong game selection for Xbox 360, Wii and DS. The Playstation 3 (my family got one as a blu-ray player a month after I started Gamefly) selection seems lackluster. This could just be a Playstation 3 thing and not a Gamefly thing. One of the games I really wanted was Civilization Revolution DS, it was not out yet but I left it at the top of my Queue for the week or two before release. On the day before release it was shipped to me so I got a brand new copy the day after release.
This brings me to the buying feature of Gamefly. There are two ways to buy games, the simplest is through their online store of used games. The second, and one I have used, is to use their “Keep it” feature. This let me buy the games I currently had rented out, this way I could see what condition the used game (new in the case if Civ Revolution) is in before purchasing it. Once I bought a game they then shipped the case and instruction manual within a day or so of buying it. There are also Gamefly Rewards which are usually five dollar coupons that can be used to buying games, I received these from simply being a member for a month, filling out a survey and for being a member two months (I think). With their relatively low prices and the coupons I was able to buy several games for under twenty dollars when they sold for around thirty on sites like Gamestop and Amazon. The only thing is some games cannot be bought. Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney cannot be purchased, likely due to a shortage. Other games like Assassin’s Creed had a large sale going (fourteen dollars for it). Also used prices sometimes changed within a day or two, probably to reflect inventory.
Of course if I just wanted to play a specific set of games Gamefly would not be the best way to do it. What I have liked about Gamefly is that it has let me play games I would not want to buy or pay three to four dollars to rent. The games I would not have otherwise played: Beutiful Katamari (never played the original), Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Ninja Gaiden DS, Professor Layton and the Curious Village, Portal and Burnout Paradise. Some of them I played for a day then returned, others I kept for about a week and a half to finish.
Overall I have been satisfied with the service. The website is intuitive and works well, the games have been in good condition and the prices for buying games have been low. My only complaint about the service is the somewhat slow turnaround time, this might be because of limited inventory or they are still small compared to larger rental services like Netflix.
There is one new feature on Gamefly I have not tried. They let you trade in your old games for Gamefly Reward credits. I suppose this would be a good way to sell or trade out old games. Except I am the type of person who has my original NES console and games in my closet, I never know when might challenge me to a race in Excitebike. 
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