Friday, April 22, 2011

To rent or to buy games? That is the question

If you buy "Homefront" used, you'll have to pay for some  online features.

If you buy "Homefront" used, you'll have to pay for some online features.

You know the deal. You plunk down $60 for a red-hot new PS3/Xbox 360 game that's all the hype. You brave the elements and rush to a local Gamestop at midnight, and play the game into a coma. Well, a short coma, as the game only last about 5, 6 hours. So, you just spent $10 an hour to be entertained by a game you'll likely never pick up again. A few games will hold your attention long after you have finished them (For me, it's Mass Effect, Mass Effect 2, Test Drive Unlimited and Test Drive Unlimited 2.) but most end up on a shelf or traded at a games retailer for about half (if you're lucky) of what you paid for it.

The bottom line - is it worth it to buy games or just rent them over a weekend or from Gamefly?

It really boils down to your financial situation and if you are willing to resell or trade-in the games after you finish them (if you aren't planning to play the game again).

Let's look at the benefits of buying vs. renting.

"Test Drive Unlimited 2" offers gamers hours of  entertainment for under $40.

"Test Drive Unlimited 2" offers gamers hours of entertainment for under $40.


The good: You own the license to play the game on your system. (This is something that isn't broadcast, but it's on every piece of media you buy. You aren't buying the game - you are buying a LICENSE to play the game and at any time, the license holder can revoke the license and take the game back. Of course, it's not LIKELY to happen, but they have every right to do that.)

You can play the game at your own pace, without worry of late fees or keeping a rented game for months, realizing in the end you could have bought the game. You can trade the game in if you don't like or care for the game. You can even sell the game via craigslist or eBay and get more for your game than selling it to a local video game store. Plus, if the game is newer, you can pretty much get most of your money back if you sell it fast enough. You can also keep the game to play online or pick the game up again when DLC (downloadable content) hits on the console's marketplace.

The bad: You can get burned on a real stinker. You may not be able to sell your game for nearly the amount you paid. You may want to keep it, but eventually forget about it and get next to nothing when you want to get rid of it. You also end up spending a lot of money buying current games.

Buying secondhand games

The good: Buying used games from Gamestop, eBay or craigslist gets newer (and even older) games into your hands at a fraction of the cost. You can keep the game as long as you want and, usually, Gamestop will allow you to return the game within 7 days of purchase. Plus, you are able to acquire more games at a cheaper price vs. buying new. Gamestop also offers a warranty that the games will play and allow exchanges if the game doesn't work. Also, most of the benefits of buying a new game are present with buying used games.

The bad: Buying secondhand games sounds like a clear winner, right? Not so much. More and more companies are hip to gamers selling their games. In the past, they couldn't recoup that secondhand sale. That's changed now. More video games are forcing gamers who buy used games to buy modes to take the game online. What does that mean? You can't play online without a one-time use code that gives the original owner access to online features. Without it, you can't access all of the features. If you never play online, you're fine. But if you are an online fiend, having to pay for standard features, even with a discounted game, can make the game cost as much as new.

Renting "Red Dead Redemption" may not be the best option.  The game takes several hours to complete.

Renting "Red Dead Redemption" may not be the best option. The game takes several hours to complete.


The good: You can buy an all-you-can-eat rental membership from Gamefly and play as many games in a month as your heart desires. You can also hit up a select few RedBox rental kiosks and rent games (this features isn't available in a lot of places - check online and see what kiosks are offering the service). After beating a game, you can return the game to Gamefly or your local video rental store and pay $7 to rent another game. Don't like the game? No worries. Take that turd back to the store or ship it back to Gamefly. For a parent that's tired of spending $60 every month on a game that your child beats within hours, it's a lifesaver. Plus, you don't have to worry about having to trade in your games and get ripped off by used video game stores. You can also cancel your membership at anytime. Just return the video game and you are done.

The bad: If Jr. forgets he rented a game on your account, look out. The late fees could cost more than $299 on a PS3 console. You don't own the game - you have to pay to keep renting it. If the game is like Elder Scrolls or Mass Effect 2 and will take hours to play, you may do well to just buy the game. Plus, if you or your child enjoy the game, you'll have to pay to buy it anyway. Just like buying the game secondhand, you may have to pay to get certain online features. Also when renting a game, you don't usually have a case or manual (especially from Gamefly).

So, those are the facts. What do you think? Which works for your gaming situation? Sound off, folks.

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