24 November, 2011

Netflix vs Blockbuster vs Gamefly: What monthly subscription is the best deal?

Some months ago Netflix, the industry powerhouse in the delivery of home video content, pissed off millions of its customers by increasing costs of certain options by as much as 60%. This resulted in not just negative reactions via social media but actual losses for the company of nearly a million subscribers. This is no small bit as the negative reaction to the fee structure has resulted in huge shifts in market value for the company, once over $16 billion, now hovering around $5 billion even as earnings have increased.

This sudden shift left a massive opening for the failing Blockbuster Video just as the company was closing stores across the country. Could they offer a competing monthly subscription package? Could they possibly afford not to? Surprisingly, even though they have come out with what is an attempt to grab some of those Netflix customers, the plan isn't a Netflix killer.

To gamers, Gamefly has been the home delivery video game rental giant, and hasn't had any big competition in that realm until recently, with Blockbuster adding games to its own options.

But which one offers the best deal? Let's check it out. Note that I am going to round off the price points to give people the realistic cost and not the psychological-illusion-of-paying-less-cost:

Video Rentals
  • $5 a month for limited streaming of 2-hours per month, and a limit of 2-discs per month.

  • $8 a month for unlimited streaming, no discs.

  • $8 a month for 1-disc at a time, with no streaming.
  • $12 a month for 2-discs at a time, with no streaming.

  • $16 a month for 1-disc at a time, with unlimited streaming.
  • $20 a month for 2-discs at a time, with unlimited streaming.
  • $24 a month for 3-discs at a time, with unlimited streaming.
  • $30 a month for 4-discs at a time, with unlimited streaming.

Game Rentals
Though Netflix announced it would offer video games rentals, the recent decision to not split the subscription services between Netflix and Qwikster has caused the company to reevaluate that option.

Netflix offers a wide variety of home video options that are unequaled, especially when you look at the video streaming option. Even at the increased price, the 1-disc plus unlimited streaming option is better than anything else the industry offers. And if you don't care about receiving physical discs, the unlimited streaming option is a bargain when compared to virtually every legal on-demand option available anywhere. The lack of a video game rental option does hurt it but the company is still considering it (will update this article if they change their mind).

It should be noted that Netflix adds an extra cost to those who want to receive Blu-Ray discs, when available.

Video and Game Rentals
  • $10 a month for 1-disc at a time, no streaming, but with in-store exchanges available.
  • $15 a month for 2-discs at a time, no streaming, but with in-store exchanges available.
  • $20 a month for 3-discs at a time, no streaming, but with in-store exchanges available.

Blockbuster does provide a streaming option but it is pure on-demand, where you pay per rental. I am not including that as part of this analysis since it isn't a monthly fee. Therefor, Blockbuster's current service only provides physical discs. For anyone leaving Netflix having utilized its streaming option and looking to Blockbuster, this is a no-brainer. Don't do it. However, if you want to have the option to rent games, then this is a viable option. Also, the ability to exchange those discs at a local store (if there is one still near you) gives consumers the most amount of options for receiving and returning discs, as well as the quickest possible service.

If you consider that the mail delivery service can take several days, having a Blockbuster subscription means you could easily watch many more movies, or play many more games, per month for the lowest cost option than even the highest cost option for its competitors provided there is a store nearby.

Unfortunately, the lack of an unlimited video streaming option makes this a much less attractive option to non-gamers than Netflix. However, if you have a nearby Blockbuster store and you like to watch a new disc every day, then this may be the way to go.

Let me also note that unlike Netflix, Blockbuster does not charge extra for renting Blu-Ray discs.

Game Rentals
  • $16 a month for 1-disc at a time.
  • $23 a month for 2-discs at a time.

Gamefly has the highest cost per option but also the most available games. You are more likely to receive the game you want from Gamefly than from Blockbuster. However, you are paying $6 more a month for the 1-disc option, and $8 a month for the 2-disc option for that availability. If $72 or $96 a year increase is worth that to you, then Gamefly is your best option.

For pure video rental options, Netflix is still your best bet, especially if you are a big video streamer. However, for video disc and game rentals, Blockbuster is the only option. And finally, for pure video game rentals, Gamefly is still king.

However, I highly recommend trying out Blockbuster to see if their lower cost and greater amount of rental options serve your needs better.

Each service has a FREE trial period, with Gamefly also offering the first month at a reduced cost. Though, beware that when you order the service, they put the first-month price up front and toss the actual price in parentheses. This is done to entice people to the service with the appearance of the lower price-point. Sure, they include the actual price immediately following but this is yet another psychological-trick of marketing, implanting the initial price into the mind of a potential customer.

Out of the three, Gamefly is the only one utilizing this price-point marketing scheme and that may give a more discriminating consumer pause. Though, most gamers are likely too high on Mountain Dew and full of pizza to think much about it.


  1. That was a good comparison but I noticed you said Blockbuster didn’t have streaming. It does actually have a lot of content available with unlimited streaming, although you are correct that it does have some additional stuff on a PPV type of system. I’ve had the Blockbuster Movie Pass for over a month now and feel pretty comfortable talking about it, and familiar with its features and can tell you that it has unlimited rentals on DVDs, Blu-rays, and games, with the option for in-store exchanges (which you mentioned), but it also comes with streaming and 20 movie channels for $10 a month. I used to have both Netflix and Gamefly and I’ve cancelled both now that I have the Blockbuster Movie Pass. It turned out to be one of the better entertainment decisions I’ve made, and as an employee / subscriber of DISH Network, I really feel like it rounds out my options.

  2. But isn't the "unlimited streaming" you are talking about an added cost? Not part of the package plan I mentioned? If not, I will edit the article to reflect that info.

    Though, I will need a link to where it can be ordered because I can't find it.


  3. I just checked their own FAQ and it says they don't offer unlimited streaming. You are talking about something that is currently only available to DISH Network customers.

    So, the article stands as is.

  4. Sorry for the late reply. Yes you are correct. Currently the Blockbuster Movie Pass (which is the service that has the unlimited streaming), is only available to DISH Network customers, although I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes. But I apologize; I didn’t realize that barred it from your comparison. I guess I just never figured it had to be a stand-alone service because when I had Netflix and Gamefly, I still had my satellite which I’ve always viewed as my main source for my entertainment, and I understand I could be considered biased, being that I work for DISH Network, but I honestly feel like if the Blockbuster Movie Pass is an option, it’s the better deal. But thank you for taking the time to reply to me.

    Oh and I forgot to mention this in my first post but I loved the last sentence of your article, that made me laugh.

  5. I just wanted to compare the service options as they applied to the majority of potential customers. If Blockbuster had that DISH option for all of its customers, it could put Netflix out of business.

  6. After over 5 years with Netflix and on and off subscription with Gamefly, I made the switch to Blockbuster. On paper it just made sense, especially because (at the time of the switch) Netflix made changes to their pricing. 3 movies or 3 games or a mix match of both for the price of 3 movies for the same price as Netflix...HELLO! No brainer! After more than a year of being with Blockbuster I switched just this past Saturday (06/22/13), back to Netflix. Here is why.

    Movies: It took DVD's/Games sometimes a full week (or more) to get to me compared to Netflix that took 3-4 days from mailing in to receiving. That is only if they had the availability. I had 5 items (2 games and 1 movie) that sat in my queue for more than a month (which is why I finally gave up). Their library for movies nearly matches Netflix, but the amount of copies they have is simply atrocious. We found ourselves just going to the Redbox for newer movies because they actually had them in stock. Their whole pitch about being able to exchange at a store is irrelevant here in Charlotte, NC since the last store closed a few months ago. The 3 movies we had been waiting for with Blockbuster, I put in my new Netflix queue...yeah they will be here today (06/25/13).

    Games: They do have a somewhat decent game selection. They do not, however, always carry the newest titles right away. For example, DmC (Devil May Cry. This game was released January 15th 2013. It was available in the Redbox in May. It is set to release for Blockbuster in July. If they do actually have a legitimate "new release"...good luck getting it because, like their movies, they don't have a copy supply large enough to even come close to demand. Yeah, with Gamefly that happens too, but the wait time is much more reasonable.

    Make your own judgement obviously. We gave it more than a fair chance. In our opinion, Blockbuster needs to step their game up in a big way for them to even come close to being a player in this market. I had a lot of hope for them. If they are smart, they will either dump some money in their inventory to make them relevant or team up with Gamefly before someone else does. Whoever does team up with Gamefly...they will have the mail-in media market completely cornered.