The Renting Game

If you’re an Australian gamer  – or the parents of one – chances are you’ve felt the pinch every time you’ve purchased a new title.

Buy a video game for any of the major consoles in Australia and chances are you’ll pay more for it than a gamer in another country. The cost of Rockstar’s “Red Dead Redemption” on Xbox 360, for example, costs $59.99 from EB Games in the US and $108 from the same chain in Australia. At current conversation rates, the actual cost here should be $70.

Compared with the UK, Australia gets the same unfair hand. Comparing online prices from GAME stores, the cost of Nintendo’s “Super Mario Galaxy 2” on the Nintendo Wii is £34.99 in England and $99.95 from the same chain locally. Once again, current conversion rates put the cost closer to the $60 mark.

It’s little wonder then that Australian gamers are searching for more affordable alternatives.

Trading has been one of the more popular options for gamers over the past few years. This is where you buy a game from one of Australia’s larger games retailers (such as EB Games, Game, and JB HiFi), and exchange it for a store credit once you’ve mastered it. The game is put into the retailer’s second-hand bin and sold at a discount by the store, and you get to use your store credit on your next games purchase – be it a pre-owned or mint-condition title.

But even with this approach, games can be expensive. Pre-owned titles don’t always provide huge savings, and sometimes they may even be more expensive than their brand-new-in-shrink-wrap equivalents.

Rental is the more established option, of course, but the source of rentals has changed with the times. Once was, for example, that those with a desperate need to play, say, Sonic Hedgehog 2 would walk into the local video store and rent it. Today, though, console games are following the trend set by movies and are, increasingly, being sought from online vendors

Unlike the movie trend, though, console games typically aren’t distributed as digital files from the gaming equivalents of Netflix or iTunes. True, some titles are available for download over the various online gaming networks, but the choice is far from comprehensive. All of which means that when it comes to accessing games for Xbox 360, Wii or Playstation 3, physical media still dominates, with the mode of distribution being Australia Post.