The reach of Amazon never ceases to amaze me from being able to buy nappies on its main shopping site to downloading audiobooks on Audible they are able to cover most needs. So when Amazon acquired Lovefilm it seemed they also wanted a share of the media rental market.
My initial interest was peaked over 18 months ago when trying to decide on a birthday present for myself. I was looking at a list of games that were peaking my interest and instead thought none of these titles had proven themselves to me through reviews or demos. So I decided for the price of roughly 3 full price titles I could ask my wife to get me a Lovefilm subscription instead.
When joining you are faced with a host of options for your membership from online viewing only ala Netflix for £4.99 to my chosen option of a mixture of Game and film (DVD or Blu Ray) rental along with unlimited streaming. My particular package is £11.22 a month and for this we are allowed two discs at home at any one time, unlimited rentals of both games and films and unlimited streaming throughout the month. This package is one of the more expensive but for what I feel I get extremely good value for money.
So lets start with the basics there are always deals of free month trials for the service so have a look around before you take the plunge. On signing up they require delivery details for obvious reasons and a credit card. In regards to this you are actually receiving physical media and so for the company to have an insurance policy against you not returning the discs is fine by me. Obviously they hope you will carry on with your subscription or at least forget to cancel earning a bit of extra cash. They do notify you when your subscription is running out and this is good as then if you forget it really is your fault. On signing up you are given a list with which to fill your desired rentals. This is easy to fill as you browse through the extensive catalogue. You have the option to create multiple lists I have one list for games and one for movies/tv series. This is the reason to have the higher number of rentals. Usually I would not have the time to finish more than two games a month but for movies or Tv shows I can usually get through two discs a week.
As for the discs they come in a heavily advertised envelope and are always filled with a few leaflets from other companies. Again this does not bother me I actually have taken advantage of a few of the offers but most just get binned. The discs come in a plastic wallet for extra protection and usually are delivered together on your first delivery. You are able to get more envelopes from Lovefilm and this is advisable as if you keep both discs together and send them back at the same time you run the risk of cutting down how many rentals you can have in a month. They sell the fact you can keep discs for as long as you want this is great but the question is, is this really a good idea on an unlimited package. If you’re going to hold on to discs for a while look at your needs and choose your package accordingly for the time you have available. Due to a physical disk being delivered this can about a bring a few problems. Most annoyingly is the company seems to shut down on a saturday so if you post a disc on a friday you will not get another disc till Tuesday. There is usually a three-day turnaround for disc and in this day and age it’s a bit odd that Saturdays are not considered a working day for a service company such as this. The second problem with a physical disc is the chances of it being scratched this has happened on three occasion but out of around 120 rentals that we have received this seems like an acceptable amount. When a disc is damaged you go to the web site and tick a box and a new disc is sent out straight away and they ask you to send the damaged disc back as soon as possible. I firmly believe that every service will have problems but it’s how the company responds to problems that shows how good they are and all of my interactions with customer services have been quickly rectified and you can not ask for more.
The catalogue is extensive they state 70,000 plus titles including games, films and TV shows. The titles are regularly refreshed with new titles being added all the time. New titles does not necessarily mean newly released films. It actually means new titles to their catalogue in saying this most new titles are added on the week of DVD/Blu Ray release. As an example when Game of Thrones was released in the UK on the monday I got the first disc in the set on the Wednesday. This is something that you have to remember with TV series if a set is four discs it counts as four rentals. These are sent in order allowing you to watch the series in sequence. A nice touch is also if you add multiple seasons they will come in chronological order without you having to do anything.
The instant viewing choices are great they have exclusive viewing through streaming with the likes of the BBC and ABC. Giving you the wonderful Blackadder and Only fools and Horses, as well as the disappointing but somewhat loved Lost. The trouble is they do not have a way of logging what you have watched so you have to remember the episode you last watched and they do not have a list on the PS3 in which to keep a track of titles you want to watch not really a big problem but sometimes its the usability that needs to be thought of. I mainly use my PS3 for viewing and like Netflix it’s available on the XMB. Talking of Netflix this is something it does have over Lovefilm as you do not have the portable viewing options, it’s basically computer and Games console restricted. There is a Lovefilm app and this is a List manager as opposed to a viewing system. They have not announced if this is an option that will add in the future but it would be nice to have these titles on the go as well as at home. As for the Instant view films this month has seen films like Scream 1 to 3 added and the classic Escape to Victory, this again shows the filling of the catalogue with older movies. In saying that they also have just added Kick Ass to the catalogue which came out in 2010 so it shows that they do try to add newer titles as well. You also have the option to pay to watch newly released titles for around £3.50 on top of your rental price, it’s an added option but with such a vast catalogue unless it’s a film you really want to watch just wait for the disc.
Game rentals are the main reason I decided to opt for Lovefilm and their collection here is great you can get new titles again in the release week (most recently I got Max Payne 3 on Week one of release) as well as trying to work on that pile of shame. I only rent PS3 titles but they cover all the major systems including the XBOX, Wii, DS and the Vita. The trouble as with all rentals is the list structure. There is no way of securing a title that you may desperately want. Within your list you have the option to put a disc in high or medium priority but that’s the only way you can attempt to get that new title you desire. I understand why they do as everyone wants that game on the first week but they only have a limited number of discs. This does not worry me too much but it does limit the ability to join a Gamenight for instance as you do not know if you will be receiving a game on that rental cycle. The other problem for game rentals is coming from an outside source game developers. The growing trend of online passes is beginning to limit the usefulness of rentals for online multiplayer experiences. It’s a worry and the question is will it end up hurting new IP’s as where are they going to get that install base with which to make their game grow. At this time I have my multiplayer games and if I get a chance to play a different game for free I will take it but otherwise I will get the single player games as rentals and save my money for my tried and tested multiplayer experiences.
Nothing is without it’s faults, but for my families needs Lovefilm is a great service, we get that mixture of instant viewing and the physical media we desire. With any service like this you have to ask yourself how much value you will get from its use and is it worth the money. I would definitely recommend this service to people who do their main viewing at home as well as enjoy gaming. But just try to choose the right package and you will hopefully not be disappointed.
Photos courtesy of Google Images.