The Fall of Brick & Mortar Rental Chains

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There was once a time long, long ago….wait, not so long ago actually…where I could walk into a video store and look at a vast selection of games and movies there for me to rent or purchase. What happened to those days?

I remember the days as if they were just yesterday, because well, they weren’t all so long ago. In my relatively small number of years on this Earth (being 22), I have seen so many rental stores rise to and fall from prominence.  Why has something that was once the status quo for so many people gone by the wayside? I think I may have some insight into that.

It all started for me on my NES, I remember playing on that thing for hours on end, I don’t really remember the games that I played because I was only 4 years old at best but, I loved that machine. I remember a pirate game and long bouts of Super Mario Bros. Then, my NES stopped working and that Christmas, I got something new. My Sega Genesis. This started my love for renting video games.

I had quite a few games when I was young, probably a good 6 or 7 when I started with my Genesis but, I always got bored with the games that I had, whether I couldn’t beat a level or I simply was bored with the gameplay, I was always looking for something new. One day, my mom took me to the little mom and pop video store down the street and I was allowed to rent a game for the first time. I don’t remember which it was but, the simplicity of being able to choose anything I wanted was a great experience.

While the small rental store were great in their own right, my first big movie store was Applause Video which our Canadian readers may remember. Applause was a great store and had a lot of what you would see in a modern day BlockBuster. I love all the tvs showing movies and the candy and all the campy promotions. It was the atmosphere and as a kid, I was sucked in.

Soon, rentals became a weekly thing and I loved every bit of them. From renting Simpsons games to playing the latest game in the NHL series, I wanted to try everything, and I could. Sometimes, if I liked it, someone would even buy it for me. Just as I started to get more and more into this not-so-new anymore rental thing, Applause closed down. That was in the mid-90s and it was the first chain that I can remember closing. It definitely wouldn’t be the last.

I was introduced to Rogers Video when they came to my city and for a good 6 years they were my go to rental store. Rogers had so many enticing promotions and great selection that I always found something to rent and they always gave me a good weekend. As the years went by, they became less and less reliable though, and I was compelled to try something new. I soon found out though, that Rogers was becoming worse and worse because they were preparing to shut their doors just as Applause had done so many years ago. I last walked into a Rogers Video last summer as I saw through a banner ad across the storefront that they were going out of business. I remember walking around that store looking at the empty shelves and being saddened that this was once the place where I had found so much enjoyment, gone without so much as an e-mail (I subscribed to the newsletter).

My last ditch effort to find a video rental chain, I turned to BlockBuster. I loved Blockbuster for their used games and rentals, they had EVERYTHING! I went there weekly in the fall of 2009 and spent vast amounts of my pay every week on anything I could get my hands on. I was overjoyed every time I left that building and I couldn’t have been happier with the deals that I got. It wouldn’t last though as late last week, I got an e-mail telling me that BlockBuster Canada would be going out of business in the near future. So one last time, I will walk in those doors and remember all the times I had rented and bought from all the video rental stores and all the fun they had provided me over the years. Yeah, there will be those small stores here and there, but it just won’t be the same ever again.

Netflix and Gamefly have made things just much easier to do from home, everybody took the convenience and ran with it at the expense of being able to drive over to a store and pick something rather than get it mailed. Add to that the fact that demos appear on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network and that’s a recipe for disaster. Maybe there just isn’t the market for rentals anymore but, I for one will sure miss being able to look around in a store and see all the games that I envisioned playing. Cartridges died, so have rental chains.

I can’t believe how much things have changed in my short lifetime, what will it be like 20 years from now?

What are your thoughts on this whole situation? Tell us in the comments.