Blockbuster, the brick-and-mortar video retail chain that was once home to me and my teenage friends almost every weeknight and weekend, got famously put out of business 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 might be staging a comeback. Either that, or it’s an early April Fool’s gag. But you know what? Let’s hope it’s a comeback.
Here’s the message currently displayed on Blockbuster’s website: “We are working on rewinding your movie.” According to 10tv.com, the message has been there since last November, although it’s only recently been discovered, and it’s not yet clear what the message means.
Technically, of course, Blockbuster did not die. Although most of its stores have closed, Blockbuster as an entity still technically exists, having been purchased by Dish Network in 2011. There’s also a Blockbuster store in Bend, Oregon that proudly markets itself as “the last Blockbuster.” The mostly-defunct brand also has a cutesy Twitter account; a couple of weeks ago, it posted, “New business idea: We’re going to come back as a bank and use VHS and DVDs as currency. Time to go visit your mom.” (That probably isn’t what the Blockbuster website update refers to, but it’s possible.)
In 2023, it may sound absurd for Blockbuster to stage a comeback. But it should, and here’s why: Video game rentals. Although movies, TV, music, and even books have made the leap to digital subscription platforms with (relative) ease, video games haven’t been quite so lucky. Sure, Xbox Game Pass is great, and it’s only a matter of time before internet access becomes widespread enough that cloud gaming becomes a viable business concept (pour one out for Google Stadia). But we also live in a world where games suddenly become unavailable or delisted from online stores, like the impending Nintendo eShop situation.
Blockbuster, as well as other comparable brick-and-mortar 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 who lived in areas with crappy internet, or just people who couldn’t afford to own every console. You could also rent older consoles; in 2023, many people resort to emulation in order to play old video games, because there isn’t any other way to play them. What if Blockbuster became an option for preserving and sharing video games — especially older games that aren’t otherwise available?
All that said, I doubt that’s what Blockbuster is up to. But as somebody who cares deeply about the preservation of media, it would be cool to see an old but trusted brand stepping up to make that happen. It would take some serious “rewinding” in order to get back to a past where physical media is preserved and respected — but who better than Blockbuster to meet that need?