Netflix was a darn good idea, so it would stand to reason that a rental service for gamers would be an equally good idea. GameFly is a relatively new service, but it has gained plenty of recognition since its inception, and we're taking a quick look at how they're faring.
First of all, one of the biggest factors in this review is the quality of the product we receive in the mail. They only recently opened up an East Coast distribution center – the impact of which was felt immediately – but for a while, we on the East Coast had to deal with games coming all the way from California. Now, that's a long way to go for a fragile little disc, but GameFly encases the disc in a piece of cardboard to ensure the thing stays in one piece during transit. And it works quite well; in over 6 months of service, we've only received one defective disc, and it was an old PS2 game. Furthermore, we had a replacement copy within only five days after reporting the problem.
Next up is, as mentioned above, the speed of the service. At around January and February this year, before they opened their East Coast operations, their turnaround speed was pretty awful. It actually fell off from the last few months of 2006; we wouldn't get a game for a solid week after adding it to our Game Q. But it's obvious the difference their East Coast distribution made. Right now, it's only a few days (2-4, on average) for shipping time. It still takes them longer than it should for them to process a return, but we'll assume they're working on that. For the most part, despite a horrible lapse earlier this year, GameFly has rebounded and become plenty reliable once again.
Of course, another major factor is the availability of new titles, and this is one area where GameFly falls way short. They clearly don't have enough copies of new games to go around, and that much is painfully obvious: unless you add an upcoming game to your Q before it comes out, it's guaranteed to have a "Short Wait" next to it. Many games seem perpetually mired in the "Short Wait" pit of despair, and it appears they can't ever drag themselves out. This hasn't changed one way or the other since we started subscribing, and it's by far our biggest concern. New titles are always the biggest draw, and not having enough copies to go around is inexcusable. Well, at least when it does become available, they ship it quickly and it's basically guaranteed to work.
The only experience we've had with their customer service is with that one defective disc, so it's hard go gauge. But that one experience went smoothly; we issued the appropriate e-mail complaining about the defective disc, asked for a replacement copy, and received the confirmation e-mail within 24 hours. The new copy was in the mail the next day, although it took quite a long time to actually receive it, for some reason. We honestly don't know if this is par for the course or we just got lucky, but either way, we can't say we're not happy with the customer service. So far, anyway.
For now, GameFly is a worthwhile service that lets you rent games from the comfort of your own home. Their prices for games – both used and new – are fantastic , too, especially because you get the actual case and instruction manual, contrary to the lone disc you get as a rental. The speed of shipment and turnaround is acceptable (although it could get a little better), the price is certainly reasonable ($20/month to rent two games at once at any time), and the reliability of the discs is very good. It's just too bad how unavailable those new releases are. It's a pretty significant problem, and we hope they fix it soon.
Disc Reliability – A
Speed of Shipment/Turnaround Time – B-
Availability of New Releases – D
Cost of Subscription – A-
Customer Service (Limited Experience) – B+