At Fudzilla, we are always on the lookout for new and innovative ideas, and we like it when we have the chance to share something new with our readers. The video game rental business is growing in many different ways. While most people think of GameFly (which is the video game rental equivalent of Netflix) when they talk video game rentals, beyond your local movie rental outlet or kiosks there are other options, as well.
Plurent is a mail order video game rental service that at first glance might appear to be a “Johnny come lately” to the video game rental by mail party, but in fact the company presents a new twist on the concept that we found truly fascinating. This new twist is for the first time a “free market economy,” so to speak, that determines the rental prices of the video games; and that’s not all. Members can choose to rent the games they own through the service and receive credit that is deposited into their rental account each time that Plurent rents out the title the members own. So, it is possible if you are renting out enough of your own games that you could be paying little or nothing for the games that you rent.
With such an innovative business model, we sat down with Pete Smith, Director of Operations at Plurent, to get the inside scoop on how it all works and why it works. Then, later on we give you our impressions of the service after we test drive it for a few weeks, and tell you if we think Plurent is the future of video game rental by mail.
DS - Tell us about Plurent…
PS - Plurent is a video game rental service that delivers games by mail. There is no subscription fee, shipping is free both ways and rentals start from $2 a week. You can also earn easy monthly cash by renting out your own games to other Plurent users.
DS - What makes Plurent different from GameFly or other video game rent by mail services?
PS - Unlike subscription-based rental services, you do not pay a monthly fee to rent games from Plurent. You pay only when you rent a game. All rental shipments are tracked so you are only charged for the days you actually have a game at home, and are not charged for the time it is in the mail. Additionally, you can earn monthly cash from your own games by renting them out to other Plurent users. Plurent sends you free postage-paid mailers to collect your games and manages all rental activity for you.
DS - Don’t you think that Plurent is a little late to the party? Do you think gamers will switch?
PS - Gamers are already switching over to Plurent because of our no-monthly fee model. Plurent also offers much more flexibility than subscription-based rental services. One of the most common complaints with these services is the long wait for new games. Plurent lets you control how long you wait for a game by letting you name your own price when you rent a game. You can set a higher weekly rental price to put yourself ahead of other renters waiting for it. If you are willing to wait, you can also set a lower price to get it for cheap. Finally, one of the biggest reasons users are switching over is the ability to earn easy cash from their used games by renting them out through Plurent.
DS - I like the idea of earning cash by renting out my own games. How does this process work?
PS - The process is designed to be extremely quick and easy. If you have a game you would like to rent out, just search for it on Plurent.com and add it to your Lend List. There is no fee to list your game. When there is enough demand for your game, Plurent will send you a free postage-paid return mailer to collect it. Just put the game in the mailer and drop it in a mailbox to send it to our distribution center. From that point on, Plurent manages all rental activity for your game, including shipping it to a Plurent renter, receiving it back at our distribution center, and collecting the rental fees. Rental fees are deposited to your account every time your game rents. You can withdraw your earnings or use them to rent other games on Plurent.
DS - Can I get my games back if I have lent them out to Plurent?
PS - Absolutely. When you want your game back, notify Plurent and your game is shipped back to you free of charge as soon as it is returned by the Plurent user currently renting it.
DS- What if the disc is damaged? If it is damaged, how does compensation work?
PS - Plurent takes several steps to minimize damage to games. All damage incidents are evaluated on an individual basis and lenders are compensated accordingly.
DS - So as long as you have my disc to rent out, I keep getting paid?
PS - You get paid every time your game rents. You can increase your earnings by sending in more popular games that are likely to rent out more. Additionally, you can also name your own minimum weekly price when you list a game. Setting a lower weekly price puts your game ahead of other copies listed at higher prices. Your game rents out sooner and more frequently, increasing your earnings.
DS - With the addition of this lending model, it actually is better for Plurent and the lender, as it can earn more than trading games in. Do you think that this concept will prove popular?
PS - Lending games has proven surprisingly popular with our users. Plurent lenders are earning more cash for their games after just one rental than typical trade-in values. We believe letting your games earn cash over and over instead of just once, combined with the ability to get them back for free any time makes Plurent a much better deal than trading-in or selling your used games.
DS - When I rent a title do I know if it is a Plurent copy or a user lend copy of the title?
PS - To ensure uniform quality of service, all games are handled and packaged the same way at our distribution center regardless of their origin.
DS - When users send in discs to lend, does Plurent inspect them prior to lending them out for rent?
PS - Yes. All games received at our distribution center are inspected before they are mailed out.
DS - With the lending model, it should lead to Plurent having to purchase less inventory. Is this why the costs with Plurent are lower?
PS - Rental prices on Plurent are determined by users, because they can name their own price while renting or lending a game. This leads to a free-market rental economy where prices are governed mainly by supply and demand.
DS - Plurent picks up all of the shipping and handling, right?
PS - That’s right. Renters pay only the weekly rental fee and nothing else. In addition, there is no fee to list your game for rent; and you receive free postage-paid return mailers to send your games in.
DS - The biggest problem with GameFly is waiting for games to arrive in the mail. GameFly has addressed this issue by adding more distribution centers to reduce wait times. How many distribution centers does Plurent have and what are your plans for distribution center expansion?
PS – The real reason for high wait times in subscription services is caused by a lot of users competing for a limited inventory of popular games. Plurent addresses this issue by sourcing games from our users, resulting in inventory levels that a single company would find impossible to match. Additionally, we let users control their place in line by allowing them to set their own rental prices. If you need a game back quickly, just set a higher weekly rental price. That said, we plan to continue improving our operations by adding more distribution centers.
DS - Since video games are expensive, many of our readers are going to wonder about Plurent because it is new. How established is Plurent and how long has Plurent been in business?
PS - We launched our beta in January this year and user response has far exceeded our expectations. Our user base is now in the thousands and continues to grow rapidly. Users have also been posting about us on social channels like Facebook and Twitter at an increasing rate.
DS - Thanks for taking the time to talk to our readers about Plurent and we wish you much success with this business model. I am sure many of our readers will be able to find significant value in using your service. It certainly is a different way to rent games and reduce the cost to the end user.
PS - Thank you for giving us the opportunity to discuss Plurent. We believe no-monthly-fee game rentals and the ability to earn monthly cash from your games makes Plurent a much better value for gamers than other offerings. We continue to shape our business based on user feedback, and we would love to hear what the readers think of the service. Please feel free to email us at or post in our feedback forum at http://www.plurent.com/feedback/
Once we finished talking to Pete, we wanted to test drive the service for ourselves. Would it really be as good and as easy as Pete described? Well, surprisingly, yes. It is really easy to use and once you sign up navigating the site was not a problem.
After setup of our account, we explored the vast selection of titles to rent. While Plurent does not have every title we could think of, we found their selection to be comprehensive and not missing any of the major titles that you would expect to see from the major platforms.
While browsing the site, we spent a lot of time examining the “free market rental economy” of Plurent; and what we can tell you is that (as you would expect)t the latest new titles rent for more. This is to be expected and really isn’t a surprise.
For example, Brink (which was just recently released) was renting for $8.25 per week with an average rental price of $7.88. When you choose a game to rent, you can set the rental price to anything you want, just as Pete suggested; but with Brink renting for an average rental price of $7.88, if I set my max rental price at $5, it is going to be a bit of a wait, and depending on the popularity of the title it could be a longer wait.
Older titles that have been out for a little longer have more favorable rental prices; for example, Portal 2 was renting for $6.50 per week with an average rental price of $5.75 (which is exactly what I paid for a one-week rental of Portal 2).
When I received Portal 2, the disc was in excellent condition, but you could tell it had been out for rent once or twice. The disc itself was packed in a CD/DVD style sleeve, but with no cardboard around it to protect the disc (as is provided when you rent from GameFly). The sleeve to protect the disc was made of tyvek to protect the disc and prevent scratches. The envelope itself was sturdy and very plain, except for the return postage and return address printed on it. In this case, my rental of Portal 2 originated in California and was being returned to California.
Shipping time was good and took only 4 days to arrive and 2 days to return. Plurent does a bit better on returns because (similar to GameFly) they track the disc as to when the USPS scans it for both arrival and return. This is good, because you don’t pay for transit time. I received an Email from Plurent when the disc was sent out and another Email from Plurent when USPS had scanned the disc on its way for return.
While we didn’t have time to experiment with sending in our titles for rental, it is something that we are planning to do in the future. As far as we can tell, when you are done with a title you can make more from it through Plurent than you would get for trading it in - by renting it for credit to obtain titles that you want.
Overall, our experience was good and we can recommend Plurent; and the idea of the “free market rental economy” really does come into play, as many of the older titles can be rented for as little as $2 per week. This makes it pretty easy to go back and play some of those older titles that you might have missed. We can see Plurent becoming a great and very inexpensive source to rent older titles to play. If you are looking at your video game rental options, Plurent is certainly something you should check out.