phot_fujisawa_00.jpgAh, Japan! Land of laws no one pays attention to! Used games have been sold since the dawn of the Famicom, despite the fact that it was technically not allowed. Any lover of games will tell you the used game market here is heaven. So when it technically became allowed in 2002, used games sales simply went one step up the nirvana ladder of completion. It certainly didn't please companies though, who lose quite a bit to a secondhand industry that is estimated to be 30% that of new retail.

Rental is also technically not allowed and this one works to a point: the only things you've been able to rent in a non-shady way here are demos and who wants to pay for the right to play a demo? However, in the land that invented the ninja, we have our ways of being sneaky. When you buy a game at any good non-chain retailer, you will probably receive a note on the date when the game's resale price will go down, and how much you can sell it back for before that date. Thus, if you're relatively quick, you can buy a game close to release date, play it and sell it back for an excellent price, which is kind of like Ninja Renting, because you have to be pretty skilled at games to complete them before the price goes down.

Now, in the year 2006, Koei has hired a female vampire to suck the blood of other companies' games and regurgitate it to you. Called RentaNet, the chain will be opening the first ever opportunity to legitimately rent games this week in Tokyo and Kanagawa, and is prophecied to extend into around 10-15 locations by the end of the year and a further 1800 by 2008. They say prices will differ by store, but the prices sound an awful lot like Ninja Renting without the pride. For new titles, a month's rental will be about 5000 yen, while a 5-day rental will be in the range of 2800 yen, which incidentally is kind of the universal budget game price.

For classic titles, or those that have been out for one year, about 500 yen for the 5-day rental is predicted. Like most game shops, RentaNet will employ a point system for discounts and bonuses. Locations will also be in places close to things like Namco's game centers in order to target game fans. The store offers a selection so far of EA's, Taito's, Sony's, Koei's, Bandai Namco's and Tecmo's lineups, though it naturally seems to be centered or exclusively based on their PS2 catalogs.

Despite wanting an ability to rent for a long time, now that it's here, I'm worried that it will keep the wonderfully healthy used games market from thriving. Psychologically, after years of conditioning that the only way to get a game here is to buy it or steal it, I've become so used to it, it's a bit weird to even consider renting.