Direct2Drive, the digital download service for PC games, has started a rental service. It’s $5 for five hours of gameplay, which, doing some maths, works out to $1 per hour. There’s a small catch: only three games are available to rent right now: Grid, Divinity 2, and Silent Hill: Homecoming. The future, Conan?
Rentals work as you might expect. You have to download the entire game first, then you have five hours of gameplay for $5. On the surface that seems mighty expensive—I seem to recall being able to rent SNES and N64 games in the 90s for an entire weekend—but as Matt “Saved the Crunchies” Burns said in our chartroom, you probably could have beaten Medal of Honor in that five-hour rental period.
The idea seems fine at first glance, but there’s a couple of caveats. First, if your Internet connection is rubbish you might as well sit back and strum your banjo while your rental downloads; it’s not like Netflix where the game “streams” as you play it. Second, yeah, we’re going to need access to more than three games of varying quality, even if Grid was actually pretty great… three years ago.
How about a $10-$15 “weekend” pass on Direct2Drive, Steam, or whatever other service pops up? You buy the pass on Wednesday (toggle you plenty of time to download in time for the weekend), the game unlocks on Friday evening, then you have until Monday morning at 12:01am to play? You could reasonably expect to beat plenty of games in a solid weekend, and if you like it and want to keep it you pay the difference.
That, of course, will never happen because it’s reasonably pro-consumer.