The joy of video game rentals is sadly missed – Reader’s Feature


Blockbuster rental advert
The last days of rental (Picture: YouTube)

A reader reminisces about the pleasures of video game rentals and how it helped when new games were as expensive as £60 each.

A few weeks ago. I wrote a piece for GameCentral regarding the sad and slow death of video game magazines. Writing this article got me thinking about other aspects of gaming from back in the day which are also sadly on the decline, namely video game rentals.

Back in the 1990s, after finishing school on a Friday afternoon, I would pop to my local video rental store (in this instance a small independent shop by the name of Video Pixs).

I would hurriedly make my way over to the video game section, which was in the far corner next to various snacks and giant posters for sale and peruse the selection. At this point in time (around late 1994 and early 1995) The Mega Drive and Super Nintendo were at the very height of their respective popularity and the shelves were stacked full of the very best games for both platforms.

For me and a great many other children from this era video game rentals were a gift from god, as many games on the 16-bit machines could easily cost you £60 upwards (with inflation it would be nearer £150 in today’s money). As a result, like most children from this era I only really got new games either on my birthday or at Christmas, but thanks to video game rental stores I could still play almost all of the new releases.

Another reason why renting games was often my preferred option was due to the short length of the majority of games from this era. For example, I really love Donkey Kong Country on Super Nintendo but to be honest it is not really the longest game in the world, so I was happy to rent it and finish it over a weekend rather than save up for it for several months. The exact same thing happened a few years earlier with Sonic The Hedgehog 2 on the Mega Drive (another classic platformer but extremely short).

Despite the rather childish, and at times rather spiteful, attacks on video game rentals stores from the likes of Nintendo, their popularity grew and with the introduction of the Sega Saturn and PlayStation rental stores became even more popular (especially PlayStation games). Some rental stores even began to rent out the actual machines themselves (this was actually my first real taste of PlayStation gaming).

There was a rental store in a nearby town (sadly the name escapes me) which even rented out NTSC machines from Japan, including the almost mythical Neo Geo MVS. If memory serves me correctly each machine that was rented out required, the customer to submit his or her credit card details to ensure that they returned them!

Sadly, this popularity was not to last. Whilst video game rental stores did survive another decade the decline really began to set in around the mid-2000s. I believe there were several reasons for this, namely it was because as gaming media turned to disc formats from cartridge formats prices inevitably came down (new releases could be purchased for less than £40 and budget games for less than £20), greatly reducing the market for video game rentals.

Video game rentals clearly now belong in a bygone age, but I will always be grateful to them as they gave me and many other gamers on a budget the chance to experience some of the finest games in history, many thanks for reading.

By reader Eric Bowden

The reader’s feature does not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

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