My Time With – GameFly


My husband has volunteered to do some Entertainment Reviews for FFF. I hope you enjoy his perspective (as well as his awesome writing!) and that you find it helpful.

What’s it about?

GameFly is, simply put, the Netflix for video games.  Launched a little over 10 years ago, it’s designed for enthusiasts that prefer paying a small monthly premium to play the latest and greatest games for as long as they want at the expense of ownership of those products.  In its inception it began shipping titles for the Playstation 2 era, including those for the original Xbox and the GameCube, and has since expanded to include games for Sony and Nintendo handhelds, the current gen of consoles, and just recently began offering rentals for Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U, which start shipping in mid-November.

New memberships can opt for a 30 day free trial (during which you can cancel at no charge provided any rentals are returned), or start a one or two disc account for a reduced rate for two months.  Following that, the monthly rates are as follows:

1 Game Out at a time – $15.95 / month
2 Games Out at a time – $22.95 / month
3 Games Out at a time – $29.95 / month (requires an active account for 60 days)
4 Games Out at a time – $36.95 / month (requires an active account for 60 days)

If you do a bit of research for competing services, you’ll come across Blockbuster Online which offers movies (blu-rays included) as well as games for one monthly subscription, with a range of account types that each have lower rates than comparable types from GameFly (which does not provide movies).  I can’t speak much on Blockbuster Online’s service as I haven’t used it, but I have read that they disallow you from adding new games to your rental queue until they’ve been released in stores for 100 days.  With GameFly all new releases are available on release day, and with some clever management of your queue you can get new titles in your mailbox within a day of those who paid full price for them in stores.

How does it work?

One of the most common questions about a rental-by-mail service is the shipping speed.  GameFly has shipping centers in Austin, LA, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and Tampa.  Living just a few hours from the Austin center myself, my personal experience has always been favorable regarding delivery speed.  Everyone’s mileage will vary of course but 99% of the time I see a turnaround of 4 – 5 days (depending on whether a Sunday fell in that range) between sending one envelope back and receiving another.  Though GameFly doesn’t share the exact same bar-coded envelope system that Netflix uses, they employ a service called FastReturn with the U.S. Postal Service that allows them to process your next game as soon as they receive confirmation that your last one is in the mail.
Once you get a sense of your average turnaround speed, careful queue management is critical to getting the games you want.  Each game has an identifier for its availability on GameFly’s website.  If there’s a brand new game coming out next Tuesday that I really want to try, and I currently have the maximum number of rentals out at the time for my account, my practice is to send one of them back in the mail on the Wednesday of the week before.  This results in GameFly receiving it by Friday.  Sometimes games that show a Tuesday release date will actually ship on the immediately preceding Monday or Saturday, so this is the pragmatic approach I’ve found that works best.

Aside from rentals, anyone, even those without memberships, can purchase games via the website.  You have the option of purchasing New, or Used for a reduced price.  Being a member includes better discounts on the latter and you’ll receive a newsletter by email whenever GameFly has a sale, which can be a great time to snag up some potential holiday or birthday gifts.  Personally, I almost always rent before I purchase anything.  Purchasing a rental means GameFly will simply mail you the official box for the game (as well as the next rental in your queue), and you can toss the envelope for the game you bought in the trash.  Buying used is the cheapest option obviously, but if you’re a member and you first rent a game before purchasing it, you have the opportunity to check the disk for flaws before committing.  To date though I haven’t been mailed a disc that didn’t work.

For members, GameFly actually offers a pretty nice incentive to buy games from them as opposed to anywhere else.  There are three different levels to a member account.  After subscribing for one month, you begin being awarded a $5 coupon for every three months you retain your account, which you can apply towards any purchase.  At level 2 (6 months subscriber), you get an additional 5% off of any purchase, and at level 3 (12 months subscriber) it upgrades to a 10% discount.  But, it gets better.  If you are shipped a brand new game, it’s already considered “used” by GameFly.  This means its purchase price is automatically reduced on day one by about $10 on average.  Apply your member discount to that, and you can purchase a brand new game for around $45 whereas it’s $60 anywhere else.  This is one of the main reasons I’ve kept my account for 5 years.

One of the most recent additions to the service, added around a year ago, is digital downloads of PC titles which even new members can test during their 30-day free trial.  There’s a selection of games you can download for free and play for an unlimited period as long as your subscription lasts.  The free games are mostly older and lesser known titles but there are a few notable gems, and as an ever expanding set it’s something I keep an eye on.  Probably more enticing is that you can purchase digital downloads of newer PC games (meaning the product is yours even if you let your subscription expire) and the same discount that applies to games you rent by mail applies here.  You can preorder the PC version of the next Call of Duty for a price up to 10% cheaper than you could at most other online retailers provided you’ve been a member long enough.

I encourage you to check it out at some point if you, a member of your family, or someone you know has a history of impulsive purchasing habits in the gaming market.  After 5 years as a member, despite the monthly fee, I’ve easily saved hundreds of dollars.  In fact with the range of titles I’ve purchased with my member discount, coupled with the embarrassing set of games I would have otherwise bought in a brick and mortar outlet if I hadn’t allowed my desire to play them be sated with a brief rental, that savings may well be into the thousands by now.

Disclosure: No one was compensated to write this review. All opinions are my own. This post does contain referral links.

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Heather is the creator and owner of Family Friendly Frugality. She calls Texas home and is married to her best friend. With 2 children 22 months apart, she has her hands full. So full that she decided to start blogging as a hobby. That hobby blew up into a full time job. Now she's got the husband, the kids and the blog. We're not exactly sure what she was thinking, but she's too busy for us to ask. Find Me On Google +

5 thoughts on “My Time With – GameFly”

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