While we rarely speculate on future products or report on rumors here at ZNF, it’s been a pretty quiet week and I haven’t seen this particular item pop up elsewhere. My source is rock solid, but his informants are possibly suspect. So file this under the unsubstantiated rumor category when I say GameStop is in talks to acquire the Netflix-ish Gamefly in a deal set to go down later this year. A link up like this seems logical, allowing the brick & mortar GameStop to get into the online mail order (and kiosk) video game rental business without reinventing the wheel (and without a competitor). Time will tell if an acquisition or partnership of some sort is worked out.
PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, and PS2 rentals run $2/nt which isn’t super competitive with Blockbuster’s rental fees – which is about $9 for 5 nights. And inventory seems limited (13 Xbox 360 games listed). However, the convenience factor could be huge. Not to mention, some (me) often use game rentals as a trial to determine which titles I’m going to need to purchase. However, I’m not yet convinced this model will fly. While games and movies utilize the same flat optical media, usage patterns and demographics differ.
By and large the blogosphere doesn’t seem to have much of a long term memory if theexcitementregarding Microsoft’s Xbox 360 Netflix streaming exclusivity language is any indication. A refresher: In addition to the “exclusive agreement” and “exclusive partnership” language found in Microsoft’s July, 2008 press release announcing Netflix streaming on the 360, it doesn’t get any clearer than this:
Xbox 360 will be the only game system that lets users instantly watch movies and TV episodes streamed from Netflix.
The company will soon offer the Watch Instantly video-streaming feature on Apple iPhones and iPod touch devices and the Nintendo Wii gaming console, according to an industry executive familiar with Netflix’s plans.
We’ve seen the Wii pop up as a potential Netflix streaming video destination on a few occasions – specifically via online surveys and possibly via employment opportunities. What we don’t know is the period of gaming platform exclusivity Microsoft currently enjoys with the Xbox 360. But this is the first I’ve heard of an iPhone client. Hacking Netflix doubts it’ll happen. If we take AT&T’s (incapable?) network out of the equation, I could see Apple approving a WiFi-only client. Unlike the hobbled Slingbox software, a free app download coupled with Netflix’s free streaming (for subscribers) won’t hurt so much. In fact, bring it on!
Not exactly new, although still in beta, I wanted to mention 1 vs 100 on Xbox Live. It’s a console port of the trivia television show, which I’ve never seen but is similar to say a Who Wants to be a Millionaire with audience participation. As I commented on NewTeeVee a few weeks back, 1 vs 100 has me pretty excited – it represents the first true interactive television experience as far as I’m concerned, given the reach of the Xbox Live network and mainstream appeal of a trivia gameshow. Why watch a Jeopardy when I can participate directly?
Gameplay is pretty straightforward. There’s “The One” (player on the podium), the “mob” of 100 who compete against The One, and the “crowd” which is usually the rest of us. Multiple choice trivia questions are presented, points are tallied. Real prizes are up for grabs for The One or members of the mob (depending how the match plays out), although so far I’ve only seen Xbox video game downloads and Microsoft Points. The show is hosted by two human hosts, one is live (Chris Cashman) and the other (Jen Taylor, aka “Cortana”) may not be. We participants are represented by our personal avatars and we can chat within our quartet, although I’ve never donned the mic for this game.
I’m not sure if 1 vs 100 offers Achievements – figured my round-spanning 15 correct answers streak would be good for something. But no dice. And I wish could change my answer to recover from those occasional itchy trigger finger moments (point bonuses for quicker responses). As an occasional trivia buff, I also wish MS had partnered with the NTN or licensed You Don’t Know Jack – as fun as 1 vs 100 currently is, it could feature deeper, more diverse gameplay and with more bite.
At the moment, 1 vs 100 is free to Xbox Live Gold members and augmented by commercial advertisements – mainly Sprint (Go Pre!). Hopefully, with enough participants Microsoft will find the advertisers to simultaneously keep it free, bump the prizes, and expand the winner pool once officially released.
(The video I shot above isn’t a true representation of the game: “Extended Play” isn’t hosted live and doesn’t actually feature The One. But, it should be enough to get an idea of how this works.)
Davis Freeberg fired off a tweet yesterday lamenting Gamefly’s shipment of the 17th title in his game queue. I’ve been a member, on and off, of Gamefly, the Netflix-esque video game service, for many years. And before you learn to manage your GameQ, you need to manage your expectations. (Davis knows this – he too has had a love/hate relationship with these guys.)
Repeat after me: GameFly is not Netflix. In fact, GameFly makes you appreciate Netflix’s amazingly efficient and organized operation that much more. You won’t get a GameFly disc the same week you send one back. Many of the titles you want will be listed as having ‘low availability’. (Hacking Netflix commentary suggests this could be due to folks hanging on to games longer than flicks. But, in the end, the reason is irrelevant to me as a customer.) And good luck trying to quit with games still in your possession.
So here’s how I manage my GameQ. I leave it empty. Until I add the one game I really want next. It often means I’ll wait an additional week or two before something ships, but this ensures I get exactly what I want to play now (and I use the word now very loosely). Although, my strategy essentially morphs GameFly’s two-disc plan ($22.95/mo) into a one-disc plan while sitting around awaiting that next game.
It’s not ideal, but I still usually find GameFly’s mail-order service more economical than buying games (given my short attention span) and less frustrating than dealing with Blockbuster’s brick & mortar outposts. Until a gaming kiosk lands in my neighborhood.