Feature: Should you be lending games on MyRent?

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There’s something inherently sad about a layer of dust on consoles and video games, of seeing what had once sparked joy and entertainment abandoned in the shadow of newer and shinier toys. A Nintendo 3DS stuffed in a drawer. A steering wheel left in its box. A copy of FIFA 2018 lying underneath FIFA 2019. It’s the Toy Story 3 of our people, except Buzz and Woody never went to a new home.

You could sell them, of course, but as any hoarder’s handbook might reveal: What if I want to play them again in the future? So rather than go full Marie Kondo or turn to Carousell, a new app wants you to consider renting them out instead.

Crowdsourced loans

Formally launched in May, MyRent has been asking Singaporeans to monetize their belongings through a peer-to-peer platform, one made secure via profile verifications – national ID, employment pass or passport – and a $1,000 protection guarantee. It’s created by BinarizeMe, a mobile development startup based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and had at one point lived as a property rental companion before the idea was retooled for consumer goods.

Some may balk at the idea, pointing to a vast collection of “Carouhell” stories to make the whole idea seem foolish. But a beta launch in Dec 2018 had apparently drawn steady interest through word-of-mouth alone, with photography and cold-weather gear fronting MyRent’s initial take-up. “Why buy something when you can rent it?” suggests co-founder and CEO Ishwar Dhanuka, and that message has clearly appealed with the 2,000+ users now registered on the platform.

Yet what caught our eye is gaming’s prominence, which by end May accounted for around 35% of MyRent’s total listings. That could be down to the fact that more than 90% of the current userbase are millennials (a generation that grew up on gaming), and how gaming rentals in general simply do not exist on a widely available platform such as this.

Boxed copies of PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch software, as well as relevant hardware for the two, make the majority of MyRent’s game listings. There doesn’t seem to be an unspoken price guide this early in the market’s lifespan, though lenders are given some competitive flexibility in the form of daily, weekly and monthly rates. Those feeling squeamish about high-value items may also ask for a refundable deposit, with all monetary transactions handled through the app.

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You can find plenty of gaming hardware and software on MyRent.

The MyRent experience

So why would anyone lend their games to strangers? To try and cover costs and, hopefully, maybe even turn a profit. Zheng Xinye, 33, first heard about MyRent on Mothership and was the only lender who responded to my queries. Two others, who didn’t receive an offer, haven’t replied in three weeks and counting (I suspect they haven’t even seen the message).

Like any Carousell exchange, Zheng and I agreed to meet at a nearby MRT station; I was due to borrow his copy of Firewall Zero Hour for a week. It’s not that he didn’t like the virtual-reality shooter, it’s just that his PlayStation VR set no longer works and filing a replacement didn’t seem worth the effort. Other items not seeing use, such as his Nintendo Switch and a couple of games, are also listed on the platform.

The lifelong gamer isn’t too worried about damage or losses thanks to MyRent’s guarantee. “I saw people wanting to rent my Nintendo Switch, but I see that they’re not verified so I didn’t want to rent to them,” he said.

“I won’t rent anything that’s more than a $1,000. I asked my wife if she wanted to rent our $3,000 plus vacuum cleaner and she said no [because of that limit].”

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Lenders are covered up to $1,000 should a rental go awry.

MyRent states that owners have 24 hours to report any mishaps, with pictures or videos showing the item in working condition before the rental. If available, they should provide item specifications and a purchase price too. This only kicks in if both the borrower and lender are unable to come to an agreement, such as when the buyer is missing or uncooperative.

“We work with the lender to ensure a fair compensation – in kind or by replacing the item. Our goal is to facilitate trust and foster a community with individuals coming together for safe rentals,” explained Dhanuka in a written response.

I got to experience MyRent’s customer support when my own rental with Zheng ended with unexpected drama: a persistent app crash. With no other means to contact him – no email address, no contact number – I wound up defaulting on the return. It turns out that both Zheng and I sent support emails at around the same time, and a representative, presumably co-founder Mark Kok, got back to us within minutes to mediate. In less than 30 minutes, he managed to personally resolve my issue.

After sharing my contact, Dhanuka called me the next day to personally apologize and explain what happened: in short, they were in the middle of a server migration, which validates the Google Firebase error messages I was seeing. Afterwards, he sent a follow-up email to Zheng and I, thanking us once again and (full disclosure) sending both of us a Starbucks gift card.

(Update 24 June, 09:30am: MyRent informed us that they have added live chat support since the server migration. We found it in the user account page.)

But what do the game companies think?

That unexpected hitch proved to be quite a testament of MyRent’s desire of supporting their community, and friends I’ve regaled the tale to have expressed some intentions of using the service in the future (though not for games).

However, what do the publishers and distributors think? As software, games have an end-user license agreement which unanimously forbids rentals. Practically everyone ignores them, of course, but that doesn’t absolve responsibility should it suddenly be enforced.

Xbox Game Pass

Xbox Game Pass offers users unlimited access to a catalog of games for a monthly fee.

PlayStation declined to comment for this story, and Nintendo distributor Maxsoft didn’t respond. An Xbox spokesperson, on the other hand, simply says that their updated Game Pass service is a better alternative:

“Games in Singapore and across the globe have a number of ways to discover and share new games to add to their game libraries and achievements. Xbox Game Pass (now available for both console and PC) is the best and most cost-effective way for gamers in Singapore and Xbox markets across the world to gain access to more than 100 games through an affordable monthly subscription.

“No rental return dates or damaged discs, and game title access is sustained for as long as your subscription remains active. We feel Game Pass is the best way for gamers in Singapore to satisfy their craving for the new, plus discover new favorites they may not have played or purchased as a fully packaged product. Gamers discover more with Game Pass.”

Not an entirely unexpected outcome. They’d rather you give them that rental money instead, which is part of the reason why we’ve seen an influx of pre-order bonuses and content.

Technically, you are at risk for loaning your games.

MyRent plays it safe by offloading the burden to its users: “For every item listed on MyRent, lenders are responsible for securing the right licenses or ownership rights for renting out their items. We clearly specify in our terms and conditions that owners should not rent items violating intellectual property rights, or violating personal rights,” said Dhanuka.

Here’s an excerpt:

  1. To use MyRent Service you agree without being limited to the following not to : breach lender obligations when lending; breach borrower obligations when borrowing; breach the Terms; post any indecent or inappropriate material; spread rumours ; use deception of any kind; infringe copyright or intellectual property rights; intentionally spread harmful software programs; commit piracy of works; harm or damage or infringe MyRent copyright, trademark, patent or intellectual property rights in any manner whatever.
  2. If you breach these Terms and MyRent is sued you agree to indemnify MyRent for any cost, loss or damage that we may suffer.

Not entirely out of luck

So what happens when the cross-hairs land at the bottom of the pile?

Realistically, the odds of being sued as an individual user of MyRent are probably low. Adrian Kwong, an intellectual property and gaming lawyer at law firm Consigclear, says: ”Practically, while the EULAs might give the game companies legal grounds to do so, not many companies would be likely today to expend limited resources and risk their public image to enforce those rights against individual customers. It’s just not worth the effort.”

He points me back to the days of when the Recording Industry Association of America notoriously leveled lawsuits and settlement papers at individuals over pirated music MP3s.

That situation rapidly devolved into an ‘us versus them’ standoff as everyday people had their lives upheaved for sharing songs via p2p software. Despite this, RIAA’s legal crusade did little to deter users. Eventually, efforts shifted to the platforms and sites that enable filesharing in the first place, and that continues as best practice today.

Kwong notes that the legal dynamic changes when it involves rental or lending on a commercial basis by a business entity, such as a games rental shop or a LAN café. In those situations, the game companies may act differently, especially if there is potential licensing revenue at stake for them, with other licensing agreements to sort out.

Which brings us back to MyRent’s indemnification clause and to the question at hand. Technically, you are at risk for loaning your games.  Under the terms, you also agreed to indemnify MyRent if it gets sued over your listing.

That said, the gaming industry isn’t as old as film is, and it’s often pushing for a sense of camaraderie with its fans. Anytime it wields its corporate head, gamers are quick to lash out (recently: EA attempting to pass loot boxes as “surprise mechanics”).

With that in mind, I’d say we’d be fine with the occasional game rental or two.

Potential for official hardware loans

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A PlayStation VR headset for rent. Hardware loans make sense, and services like MyRent could serve as the middleman for official distributors and retailers.

Will MyRent stick around? I certainly hope so, but not out of a desire for software. The industry has long embraced digital distribution and is now setting its sights on streaming, potentially revolutionizing the supply chain once again. Rather, I see value in people getting to try hardware and peripherals before they invest a couple hundred of dollars on a product.

A steering wheel at a nice and spacious demo unit may not translate well to a living room apartment. A motion controller may not make sense if you’re only going to use it for one title. You may not even have time for games, but a Switch for that holiday flight might be neat.

Besides, Singapore doesn’t have the same product return culture as the US with Amazon, so it’s hard for most folks to get a sense of how something might feel or fit into their lives. We have showrooms like Razer’s and Logitech’s at Marina Square, but it’s nice to have alternatives. A crowdsourced rental option with lender protections is just that

Retailers such as Sony and Sennheiser now let customers loan their higher-end headphones. With an intermediary like MyRent, maybe gaming hardware distributors and retailers could go down that route too.

Top image: GameAxis

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Ade Putra

Ade thinks there's nothing quite like a good game and a snug headcrab. He grew up with HIDEO KOJIMA's Metal Gear Solid, lives for RPGs, and is waiting for light guns to make their comeback.