Bloated Backlogs and Rental Markets

Specter Von Baren

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I've been percolating over this idea off and on for a few days now, but I wonder if we've lost something from fazing out of rental stores like Blockbuster.

Plenty of people talk a lot about how these huge backlogs of games that they haven't started or finished, and there have been many reason put forth for why this happens like having less time due to growing up and/or changing interests, but I wonder if this issue used to have a release valve in the form of game rentals.

There used to be a time where you could spend some money to try out a game for a weekend and for those couple of days you could hang in with it and see if it was a good game or not, or just whether it could hold your interest and if not then you returned it and that was that.

Now though we don't have the option to just try out a game and so we end up with these huge back logs of games that we may have thought looked interesting but could never keep our attention. I'm not saying this is the magic bullet for why this happens but I'm wondering if anyone else thought this could be part of why this problem has gotten worse.
 

bobdark

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I largely agree with you, it is why i'm a big fan of services like game pass and gamefly. i like the idea of just renting games for how ever long i need them. i love the assassin creed games and beaten all but a few, but do i own any of them? no, im not going to replay them; but if it is a great game that i'm going to keep coming back to because i love the story and i will replay it sure those are the games that are on my shelf.

This is actually why i'm really hopeful with the project stream service let me pay X amount to rent a game, sure i couldn't tell you how much my parents spent renting me games from 89-00 and while i'm sure it was a lot of money it would be no where near the amount had they bought all those games for me, and that's not even counting how many games were actually trash (looking at you platoon)

I understand that a lot of people hate the idea of streaming services largely due to network speeds in your area, but would that be any different then if you didn't live close enough to a redbox or similar service?
 

Specter Von Baren

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It?s a multifaceted issue. More disposable income as an adult, more games to choose from, and much cheaper and plentiful game sales than ever before can quickly lead to a game library surplus. It doesn?t bother me having games unplayed anymore though, as I?ve realized it?s better to have a decent rotation available for reinstalling when the inevitable change in taste presents itself.
 
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Specter Von Baren said:
I've been percolating over this idea off and on for a few days now, but I wonder if we've lost something from fazing out of rental stores like Blockbuster.

Plenty of people talk a lot about how these huge backlogs of games that they haven't started or finished, and there have been many reason put forth for why this happens like having less time due to growing up and/or changing interests, but I wonder if this issue used to have a release valve in the form of game rentals.
It's plausibly possible in some cases, but I don't believe it's true for most. The single most obvious reason is of course PC gaming which has never had a rental market. The second, less obvious reason is that traditionally people buy console games specifically to play them in the near future.

I think there are other reasons that are much more significant than what I believe is a very tiny amount from rentals. On top of the issues mentioned (age, changing interests), less time is a significant one. Games still compete with things like Netflix and Boxset type things. A lot of people now binge-watch box sets of shows on streaming services. Not only that, social media, youtube, twitch are all distractions.

But if I had to pick one main reason above all, I would theorise that the main reason would be online-play (and the padding that goes along with it). Games like CoD have prestige/infamy systems encouraging an endless repetition of the same gameplay. MMOs, Diablo 3/Path of Exile, Bordlerlands 2, they are long games which encourage multiple playthrus on multiple characters with a lot of farming for specific/best-in-slot items, etc.

If an average FPS is about 10hrs, (8-12hrs averaged out), a short RPG about 20-25hrs, a long RPG/Strategy game 40-60hrs and so on, MMOs require/absorb hundreds of hours. I've personally put over 1,000-2,000 hours into Payday 2 and Warframe respectively and about 500-600 hours into Skyrim. Spending that much time with fewer games, all the while new titles are coming out and get added to the backcatalogue.

I still have both Pillars games to play, and Tyrant and I love Obsidian and isometric old-school, story based RPGs. I still have The Witcher 3 for heaven's sake. I think now it's harder to block out the 50-80hrs I know they'll ask for, I'm more easily distracted by coop games with friends (when the bastards come online, what with their own lives and all) and still have fun with smaller games like Diablo 3, Don't Starve, Test Drive Unlimited 2 when the mood takes me for those particular types of gameplay.

Consider also modern game design from companies like Ubi and EA Canada (aka BioWare). Sandboxes with dozens of hours of "filler", nebulous, repetitive "content" and busywork to fill a player's time, easily copy/pasteable. Even disposable games that would have been a weekend rental like AssCreed are now dozens of hours long.

Rentals weren't a big market and I don't think they should be credited with such an impact on growing backcatalogues. I think longer games, online play and more distractions from other non-game sources are more to blame.
 

CaitSeith

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Usually a bloated backlog means that, compared to how many games you buy, you are dedicating too much of your time to very few games. Besides the potentially unhealthy spending habit, I honestly see very little issue with this. Your are missing what could be your next favorite game; but if you are enjoying the heck of the game you are in right now, doesn't it make sense to spend as much time as possible with it?

With rentals, you're just replacing your personal backlog with the rental store's catalog. I may be wrong, but I don't see much of a reduction of the backlog size there...
 

Xprimentyl

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I think any current excess of backlog is due largely to the accessibility of games nowadays. Between digital download outlets, used game stores and even resources like YouTube and Twitch where one?s interest might be piqued only to diminish once the product is in hand, games on the whole are more accessible than ever. Couple that with more frequent new releases, sales, discounts and outright giveaways, we?ve a veritable smorgasbord of games that at no point demands we stop and clean our plate.

Essentially, the times then dictated that we be more selective. Back in the days when Blockbuster was at its height (let?s say when physical copies were pretty much the only option,) the price points of buying games and less varied options meant it didn?t make sense to buy/rent 4-5 games at a time to build a backlog; renting meant you had to bring games back within a fairly limited amount of time and buying meant you were committing a lot of money, so a lot of us used renting as a trial phase that then led to a final purchase. That process of vetting took time, effort and money (and let?s not forget that?s if you were lucky enough to find a copy of the latest and greatest available for renting,) which led to a leaner gaming diet.
 

Something Amyss

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It's so many factors for me:

1. Games are so easy to et.
2. More cash to spend.
3. Less time to spend.
4. Easy to purchase games for less than a rental price.
5. one-time scarcity of games. That is, at one point, even if the game I bought was Dick Tracy (happened), if I hated it, it was likely the only game I'd have for months.
6. When I find a game I like, I want to sink my teeth into it and my limited time is eaten up.
7. Lack of restraint.
8. Seriously. I can buy 10 games for the price of a retail game. More at the right sale. When will I play all these games? Who cares, they're cheap!

I have a worse book backlogue and I still have library access. It's just that Kindle has made it easy to buy books and often at cheap prices.
 

Belaam

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Something Amyss said:
It's so many factors for me:

1. Games are so easy to et.
9. Free games from console subscription services and humble bundles. I have games that I didn't pay for, that I'm somewhat interested in, and that I've never actually booted up because I'm busy enjoying other things.
 

Something Amyss

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Belaam said:
Something Amyss said:
It's so many factors for me:

1. Games are so easy to et.
9. Free games from console subscription services and humble bundles. I have games that I didn't pay for, that I'm somewhat interested in, and that I've never actually booted up because I'm busy enjoying other things.
True. Between PS+, Xbox Live Gold, and Humble Bundles, I have a ton of games I may never play and wouldn't have picked up otherwise.