May 18, 2009

Wal-Mart to test E-Play game kiosks

Wal-Mart might be considering a challenge to specialty videogame retailer GameStop, if a new test of self-service kiosks that allow for videogame rentals and trade-ins as well as DVD rentals is any indication.

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Kiosk operator E-Play, based in Columbus, Ohio, will install machines at 77 Wal-Marts in New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island by the end of the month. Most of those stores don’t have machines operated by Coinstar’s Redbox unit, the U.S. DVD-kiosk leader that agreed last year to install its machines in most of Wal-Mart’s 3,600 U.S. stores.

In addition to offering $1-a-night DVD rentals like kiosk leader Redbox, the E-Play machines will let users turn in Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation games in exchange for credit on their credit cards, the companies said. The E-Play kiosks, which can hold about 4,000 movie and game discs, pay as much as $25 for a copy of a high-demand game such as Resident Evil 5 or as little as 50¢ for older titles, E-Play CEO Alan Rudy said. He noted that the DVD-rental function will be turned off on machines that share stores with Redbox kiosks.

“The Redbox machine does not sell games or allow for trade-ins,” said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Melissa O’Brien, who added that the company hadn’t made plans to install more E-Play machines beyond the pilot program. “We’re interested because of the added convenience of games in these units. It provides a great competitive price for games.”

Last July, NCR, the world’s largest automated-teller machine maker, bought a minority stake in E-Play in an agreement that the companies said would add several thousand DVD-trading self-service machines in GameStop and Dollar Tree stores as well as other U.S. retailers within the next few years. E-Play, which doesn’t disclose total units, also has machines in some Wal-Mart stores in Canada.

Although E-Play’s Wal-Mart machines will have the same blue-and-yellow colors as Wal-Mart stores, they won’t have a Wal-Mart logo on them, and they’ll be owned and operated by E-Play. The kiosks will charge $1 a night for both DVD rentals and game titles, and $2 for the first night for Blu-ray titles and $1 for each night thereafter.

“There’s a big difference between what we’re providing and other DVD rental kiosks,” said Rudy. “We hope there’s going to be a broader rollout.”

Posted by staff at May 18, 2009 08:25 AM