Considering how much I’ve written about DVD kiosks, some may be surprised that I recently made my first Redbox DVD rental. I was at the grocery store last week and saw that the kiosk offered the most recent Indiana Jones movie. Indiana Jones has always been a favorite of mine, so on an impulse I rented the DVD. I probably would have rented from Redbox sooner, but between TiVo, Netflix and Internet movies and TV shows, I’ve had no shortage of content and couldn’t justify spending even a measly buck.
The entire rental process was very easy and only reinforced my belief that Redbox will be wildly successful with their business model. In fact, I’ve also noticed that 7-11 has even begun testing Redbox at their stores. I’m not sure if it was the convenience of using a machine instead of dealing with long lines and surly video store clerks or the convenience of being able to make a rental as I was finishing up my grocery shopping, but now that I’ve gotten a taste, I’m sure that I’ll be back.
While it would be hard to improve on the kiosk experience, in thinking about my own entertainment needs, I realized that there is one area of the kiosk market that is still being ignored. When it comes to DVDs, there have been a number of firms who’ve thrown their hat into the kiosk ring, but so far we haven’t seen anyone introduce a kiosk system that dispenses video games.
As a casual gamer, I tend to prefer purchasing my games over renting, but every now and then I end up buying a bomb and get upset that I’m out $60 for a weak title. When it comes to movies, I have no interest in watching the same one over and over again, but I could play a video game for a year and still get just as much enjoyment as the first time I picked it up. While the cost of video games would be higher, I have to imagine that there would be a lot of people like myself who would love to be able to rent a game and keep it, if it happens to rock. In fact, if Redbox (or Gamefly, Gamestop or even [shudder] Blockbuster) introduced a rent to own kiosk system, I’d probably start buying 100% of my games from them.
Because video games tend to appeal to a more niche audience, it would be harder to introduce these kiosks in places like grocery stores of coffee shops, but I do think that companies like Burger King would love to have junk food loving adolescent males visiting their stores on a regular basis, so that they can check out (and return) the latest gaming titles. The extra cost of the video games would mean that they’d probably need to be charging closer to $3 a rental vs. the $1 bargain that Redbox offers for movies, so it’s possible that kiosk operators would see less demand for this type of service, but I imagine that the sell through rate would be significantly higher, going a long way towards making this idea economically viable.
Another issue that a video game kiosk would face, would be having to stock multiple versions of a game. When it comes to DVDs, a single standard allows you to play your movies whether your DVD player happens to be made by LG or Toshiba, but with video games, you’ve got Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft all battling for the living room, which would mean that you’d have to carry less titles to handle more formats or you’d need to have a company like Sony build kiosks that would exclusively support just PS3 games, even if it meant reducing the pool of potential customers.
While a video game kiosk would have some challenges, I think that most of these could be easily solved. I’m not sure why we haven’t seen anyone come out with a product like this yet, but I believe that there is a great market opportunity for the first one to make a move. Currently, it takes about 9 months for a Redbox kiosk to completely pay for itself. Even if it took twice as long for a video game kiosk to pay off, it’d still make an incredible investment for most businesses, even before you consider some of the extra benefits like driving more traffic to the retailer. I’m not sure whether or not someone will seize on this opportunity, but if they do, you can bet that I’ll be a customer. While I may have more then enough solutions when it comes to getting movies, getting a video game can still be a hassle.
What do you think, if someone allowed you to rent video games from a kiosk for $3 a day (or buy them for $50 – $60), would you be interested or is this just a niche market for people too lazy to drive to Gamespot?
Davis Freeberg is a technology enthusiast living in the Bay Area. He enjoys writing about movies, music, and the impact that digital technology is having on traditional media. Read more at Davis Freeberg’s Digital Connection.