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The global video game market was valued at US$65-billion in 2011, US$79 billion in 2012, and is expected to reach US$93 billion this year. As an industry, gaming is simply booming, holding some of the hottest intellectual properties (read: GTA 5) in entertainment right now.
However, as a gamer, and specifically as a gamer in South Africa, having gaming as your hobby is an expensive outing — the latest console titles clock in at around US$70, never mind the price of the console systems themselves and the necessary peripheries.
This leaves a great divide: between those who can (afford) and those who can’t (afford). For those that can’t, there have been various rental options, such as through the mystical video store, but with those dying out, options are becoming more scarce. Luckily for rental-aficionados, entering the space is Cape Town-based startup Gamebase, a video game-by-mail rental service aiming to bring gaming to the masses.
Founded by Dinielle Stockigt and Garen Cochran towards the end of 2012, Gamebase was born out of a frustration with the existing system of buying and renting games. According to Cochran, “the current console game prices do not justify the cost of finishing a game and then having the disc lie there collecting dust.”
At the time Gamebase came into fruition Cochran adds that most rental companies did not offer an option to “queue” games so that you could play them in the order you wanted, and there was the inconvenience of having to go into the shop, instead of getting the discs delivered. Furthermore, Cochran adds that if you were on a different console to your friends, you had no way you could share games between yourselves.
So after looking at what companies overseas were doing, particularly in the UK, Gamebase took shape to give more agency to South African gamers.
How it works
Gamebase is a pretty straightforward system. You pay a flat monthly fee (cost depends on which subscription tier you choose) to rent the games you want, with no due dates. You pick your games online, set the order in which you want to play them, and get gaming. Games are delivered via post (to the nearest post office) with a return envelope that you use to simply send the game back once you are finished with it. Once the returned game arrives back at Gamebase, the next one in your queue will be delivered to you.
Subscription tiers range from unlimited down to a capped number:
- Umlimited: no limit to the number of games a customer can rent per month, but there is a limit on the number of games you may have out at any time (two at a time).
- Capped: these plans have a limit on the number of games you can take out each month, as well as a limit on how many you have at a time (also two at a time).
Gamebase also makes revenue by selling new and used games, which appear to come in at competitive prices. Gamebase prides itself on being the most cost-effective and convenient way to rent games, but what is perhaps the smartest aspect of its model is that just one click away, you get to keep (read:buy) the game you’ve rented at a lower pre-played price.
This is where I see Gamebase adding true value for any console gamer: providing them a chance to trial or test a game properly before making a purchasing decision. This is something you simply cannot do through a traditional retail store (online or physical).
Gamebase’s development phase was completely bootstrapped, aided by Cochran and Stockigt’s IT experience, but as the startup has grown a bank-loan of R100 000 has helped cover additional marketing and stock costs.
In the near future Gamebase wishes to add gaming consoles to its rental options, closing the divide between Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3, meaning that you could be a Wii player one month and a PS3 player the next without ever having to buy a console or game.
With this model, Gamebase might further differentiate itself from its retail competitors — providing a complete gaming experience to those who might not be able to afford what has become an extremely costly hobby. However, balancing the management of expensive stock could prove a tricky outing.
The startup has a bit of tinkering ahead of itself to find its feet, but what stands out right now is its low purchase prices as well as its highly competitive rental packages which are pampered with a layer of convenience and logistics to sweeten the deal.
For gamers, having an option to test out a title before purchase is where I see Gamebase’s true value lying right now, and once they add in console systems to its packages, it could truly find a niche in the rental game.