Online Game Rentals: Will They Work?

Online Game Rentals: Will They Work?

How does downloading a PC game for a mere $5 USD sound to you?

What if you could only play it for five hours?

If your enthusiasm just plummeted to the pit of your stomach, you’re in good company. In spite of heavy skepticism from the gaming community, Direct2Drive, a digital download store, is building an “extended demo” format as a bridge between game rentals and full purchases. For $5, Direct2Drive will let you download five hours of game time. The menu is small so far: There’s Divinity 2, F.E.A.R., GRID, and Silent Hill: Homecoming. If you decide you want the game, that $5 goes towards your full purchase.

Direct2Drive is obviously attempting to go head-to-head with OnLive and other cloud-based game distribution. OnLive, which offers a larger roster of game, lets users download a three-day trial for $6. Moreover, it offers free demos and purchases for $20 and below. Its services are cloud-based, so even older, clunkier computers can run top-of-the-line games. New games and improvements and deals are being added to OnLive every day.

If Direct2Drive is looking to compete with OnLive, it’ll have to build itself up and give people a reason to care. And for starters, $5 for five hours of gameplay isn’t very enticing in a market brimming with low-cost games and rental options.

Realistically, Direct2Drive’s plan will only be of interest to people who don’t want to jump in the car and drive to Blockbuster. But even Blockbuster is ultimately a better deal, as the chain offers week-long game rentals for next to nothing in its mad scramble to keep its grip on the shrinking physical rental market.

OnLive has yet to woo the mainstream, so if Direct2Drive is serious about competing, now is the time to step up. But given the service’s price and meager menu at present, it’s difficult to believe that Direct2Drive is ready to take on OnLive in any fashion. Still, there’s time to build and grow yet, so we’ll reserve final judgments for coming months…

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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