Blockbuster, the brick-and-mortar video retail chain where me and my teenage friends once lived nearly every weeknight and weekend, went bankrupt in the mid-2000s thanks to the rise of Netflix and other streaming giants. But a cryptic message on Blockbuster.com has sparked rumors that the ill-fated video store could be making a comeback. Either that, or it’s an early April Fool’s joke. But you know what? Let’s hope it’s a comeback.
This is the message currently displayed on Blockbuster’s website: “We are working on rewinding your movie.” According to 10tv.comhas been the message there since last November, although it was only recently discovered and it is not yet clear what the message means.
Technically, of course, Blockbuster didn’t die. Although most of the stores have closed, Blockbuster as an entity technically still exists, having been purchased by Dish Network in 2011. There is also a Blockbuster store in Bend, Oregon that proudly markets itself as “the latest blockbuster.” The largely defunct brand also has a cute Twitter account; a few weeks ago, it Posted, “New business idea: we come back as a bank and use VHS and DVDs as currency. Time to visit your mother. (That’s probably not what the Blockbuster website update is referring to, but it’s possible.)
In 2023, it may sound absurd that Blockbuster is making a comeback. But you should, and here’s why: video game rentals. While movies, TV, music, and even books have made the leap to digital subscription platforms with (relative) ease, video games haven’t been so lucky. Sure, Xbox Game Pass is great, and it’s only a matter of time before internet access becomes so widespread that cloud gaming becomes a viable business concept (pour one for Google Stadia). But we also live in a world where games suddenly become unavailable or are removed from online stores, such as the impending Nintendo eShop situation.
Blockbuster, as well as other similar physical video stores, used to offer video game rentals – and more importantly, console rentals. As a result, it ended up providing a pretty significant resource for people living in areas with crappy internet, or just people who couldn’t afford to own every console. You can also rent older consoles; in 2023, many people are resorting to emulation to play old video games because there is no other way to play them. What if Blockbuster became an option for preserving and sharing video games, especially older games that are otherwise unavailable?
That said, I doubt Blockbuster intends to do that. But as someone who cares deeply about media preservation, it would be cool to see an old but trusted brand step up to make that happen. It would take some serious “rewinding” to go back to a past where physical media is preserved and respected – but who better than Blockbuster to fill that need?