Netflix changes name, offers games

If you’re a Netflix member, you probably got that email in your inbox from the Netflix CEO. In it he apologizes for how they bungled the whole price change thing, and then explains why they did. They’re splitting their services to different companies. Netflix is now all about the streaming, whereas the DVDs-by-mail service will now be called Qwikster, which for the record, is a dumb name. I canceled my DVD service a long time ago, so I didn’t care about this announcement until games were mentioned. Apparently, now that Qwikster is its own business, they’re going to start renting Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii games. I’m cautiously excited.

The Speed Advantage
Details are scarce right now, but the only thing I can see that Qwikster has over Gamefly out of the gate is speed. I’ve been a Gamefly member for four years, and I’ve lived in two different states and several apartments/houses. For me, the average time between sending a game and getting a new one is about three days, though I’ve waited as long as 9 (!) before. I think it depends on where you live and what’s available in your queue. Three days sucks, but I put up with it because I have all the systems, which means I almost always have something to play in between Gamefly games. I’m sure Qwikster will bring the speed, but speed alone isn’t enough to pull me away from Gamefly.

The Extra Stuff
Over the years I’ve purchased at least a dozen games from Gamefly. I earn rewards every few months, plus as a member, I get a discount in their store. I’ve purchased brand new games for far less than retail using their “Keep It” feature. Also, I just got into their Gamefly PC Beta, which is a Steam-like service that lets you manage your queue, buy games, and even play PC games for free. Right now, the selection isn’t great—mostly old/terrible games, save a few gems—but the service has promise. I don’t think I’d ever buy or even rent Velvet Assassin, but I totally played some of it this weekend, because it was free! If Qwikster wants to lure me away, I need to see some extras like this. Yes they can get me a game fast, but can I keep it if I like it? What about PC stuff? Will they move in to the digital market like Gamefly? I think they need to if they want to succeed in the long term with games.

Two Great Tastes That Tasted Awful Together
Years ago, before I signed up for Gamefly, I tried Gamez N Flix. This ahead-of-its-time company combined Netflix and Gamefly for less than either one alone. I could get games and movies for just $8.99 a month! In the three months I was a member, they sent me four games, lost two in the mail and one time sent me an original Xbox game, when I ordered the 360 version. Also, their movie selection was terrible and their website interface sucked. Qwikster probably won’t have these problems, but I do wonder how they’ll manage the queue. Will you have separate queues for games and movies? Will they let you prioritize one over the other? I can’t remember how Gamez N Flix did it, but however they did it, Qwikster should probably do the opposite.

I hope this competition drives Gamefly to speed up their mailing and distribution systems, or even better, lower their price. Only time will tell.

I have fond memories of scraping up $4.26 and riding my bike to Blockbuster with my brothers to get the newest Sega Genesis game, which we got to keep a whole three days! I’ve been renting games my whole life and I’ll continue to do so, but who I do it with depends on who has the best service and price. I’ve tried Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, Gamez N Flix, Gamefly and Redbox—I’ll probably try Qwikster too. What about you?