Plugged In

Does the demise of Qwikster mean no game rentals for Netflix?

Plugged In

Plenty of people are celebrating Netflix' decision to scrub plans to separate its DVD-by-mail and streaming services, but nowhere are the cheers louder than at the corporate HQ of leading video game rental company, GameFly.

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In his note announcing the reversal of the controversial decision, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings made no mention of earlier plans to add video games to the company's rental collection -- and many think the plan might have been abandoned.

"We are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs," he wrote on the company's blog. "This means no change: one website, one account, one password… in other words, no Qwikster. … We value our members, and we are committed to making Netflix the best place to get movies & TV shows."

Notice that video games were distinctly left out of that message.

A spokesman for the company tells the New York Times, though, that the plan for game rentals is still "to be determined."

That's hardly definitive. Many financial sites, reading between the lines of that statement, believe Netflix has decided to once again shelve any video game plans, a field the company has never seemed overly keen on embracing in the first place. Critics are grumbling that by not embracing games, Netflix is moving away from an income source that could have propped up the rental-by-mail business.

Should Netflix opt against renting games, that could be the best news GameFly gets all year. The company would face tremendous competition if it were forced to go toe-to-toe with Netflix, given that company's substantially larger customer base.

To put that difference in perspective, the last time GameFly talked about its subscriber numbers -- in late 2010 -- it claimed a membership base of 334,000 subscribers. That number might be a bit higher today, but as it stands, it's less than 3 percent of the 14 million-plus Netflix subscribers who receive DVDs by mail.

GameFly, which has delayed its plans to go public, already faces competition from Blockbuster and Redbox.

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