[Dtoid community blogger TheDustinThomas shares some of his experiences from his time working at Blockbuster (RIP). Want to see your own blog appear on our front page? Go write something! --Mr Andy Dixon]
Most gamers around my age have tons of sentimental memories regarding their favorite rental shops growing up. These days, renting has become almost entirely a thing of the past, especially now that Blockbuster is a faint memory. I never rented from Blockbuster as a kid; we instead rented from our local Marsh Supermarket. Yeah, renting movies and games from the grocery store was a thing you could do. I spent so much of my parents' money renting NES games and late 80s WWF Home Videos. I got out of the renting game in the N64 era, and I even had a few-year period where I didn't really game that much. It wasn't until I got hired on at a local Blockbuster Video that I started renting games again, because renting a game for free for a week is a lot better than paying $7 for five days.
This was in 2005, right in the heart of the PS2/GameCube/Xbox era. Unfortunately, even though my store was one of the more busy ones in the area, we didn't get a very good selection of games, and any decent games we did receive, we would only get one or two copies of. We have 2 copies of Resident Evil 4, but don't worry, we have 25 copies of Madden 2006!
Since our selection was so barren, I took a lot of chances on games that I had seen get rented out often. Sometimes this worked out great, like with God of War and The Suffering, but more often than not, I wound up on the losing end of the deal. The following is a list of games that I found to get rented the most for no good reason.
Colosseum: Road to Freedom
My District Manager had a rule that we couldn't rent any new movies or games until they had already been on our shelves for over two weeks. For the most part, I was indifferent. I bought games that I knew I wanted, and everything else I had no problem waiting for. But Colosseum was a curious case. During the two-week waiting period, this game never spent more than an hour on the shelves. It would be rented almost immediately after being returned. For several weeks after that waiting period, I still wasn't able to catch it (again, 2 copies). I actually had to ask my co-workers to hold it for me if it ever came in. They didn't, though, because they were all jerks.
Anyway, because it was so hard to come by, and the fact that the cover art made me think it was similar to Shadow of Rome (which is awesome), I was so excited once I finally got my hands on it. Let me just say that I'm really glad I had the patience to wait for it instead of buying it, which I thought about doing during the waiting period. I played it for about two hours, playing as some dude wearing a bed sheet thong, throwing the same strike over and over with a small wooden sword and shield. At first I thought it was going to be like Shadow of Rome minus the stealth sections and only the gladiator battles. And...it kind of is just that, only not nearly as fun.
Shadow the Hedgehog
I'll be the first to admit that I've never been a big fan of the Sonic series. Honestly, the only reason I played Sonic 2 as much as I did is because it came with my Genesis. When I began working at Blockbuster, they had several copies of Shadow the Hedgehog for each system. I was completely unfamiliar with the game at the time, and as little of a fan of Sonic as I was, I was even more put off by Shadow simply based on the cover art. I thought "Wow, the series has changed over the years." I knew the series had a large number of characters that I was unfamiliar with, but I was really confused by Shadow. Why does he have a gun? Is he the evil Sonic? Is this the Wario to Sonic's Mario?
I knew I didn't want to play it, and I never did. I still considered Sonic to be a kid's franchise, regardless of how "dark" this character was. I was somewhat correct, though, as this game was almost exclusively rented by children. The game wound up being a moderate success for Sega, so good on 'em for that.
Playboy: The Mansion
Okay, maybe this one isn't inexplicable when I consider that the only people renting (or trying to rent) it were 15-year-olds, who would try to get it while their parents were debating between renting The Pacifier and Sahara. I took great pleasure in calling the parents over to ask if it was okay for their child to rent a Mature-rated game.
Playboy knew exactly who they were catering to. It's basically a copy of The Sims, except you play as Hugh Hefner and proceed build the Playboy empire.
I imagine when kids tried to rent this game, they were thinking the same thing I was when I was a kid and I heard about Leisure Suit Larry: "Hey, there are boobs in this game...low quality, poorly pixelated, deformed boobs."
25 To Life
This terrible, terrible game was rented for two reasons. One, the amount of controversy surrounding it, and two, the fact that a lot of people saw it and thought it was like Grand Theft Auto. While I've never been a huge fan of GTA, I do enjoy them. And GTA, this is not. If you want to compare it to something, it's more akin to Bad Boys: Miami Takedown, which is widely regarded as one of the worst videogames ever made.
But, people still rented it. Surprisingly (or maybe not), we got more copies of this than we did GTA: San Andreas, Resident Evil 4, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Halo 2, Super Mario Sunshine, and countless other quality games. This goes to show just how much the decision-makers in the company knew about videogames.
Plus, they made me work on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve. I like to think that them making me work on every major holiday and the fact that they went out of business 8 years later are interconnected somehow. Screw that place. I'm glad it's dead.