Sunday, October 1, 2023

Didero | A New Way to Rent Switch Games

When I was growing up, we all rented video games. It was just a way of life. You only got new games a few times a year — around the holidays, your birthday — and any other time, if you wanted to play a new game, you either borrowed it from a friend or you went down to the video store.

Back then, Blockbuster was the undisputed king of video game rentals. It had a few competitors — you might remember Hollywood Video or Movie Gallery. But back in the ‘90s, I actually spent most of my time renting from a mom-and-pop store called Finklee’s. 

Their selection was smaller than the big guys, but I remember Finklee’s being a little warmer, a little more inviting. Finklee’s eventually went out of business and was replaced by a Movie Gallery. But the closeness you get with a small company, especially one in your community, can’t be replaced so fast.

Fast-forward to today. Finklee’s is just a memory for a few of us from my home town, and video game rentals aren’t really a thing anymore. Part of that has to do with the growing adoption of digital media and subscription services from Nintendo, PlayStation, and Xbox. 

And that’s really sad, especially for Nintendo players, because first-party Switch games don’t typically go on sale. Some of the games that launched alongside the Switch in 2017 are still full price. Hell, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe is consistently one of the top-selling games across all the consoles.

Renting is an important part of gaming culture that’s kinda been lost. GameFly is really the only true video game rental service I can think of.

Well, until now.

Now, I can add Didero Games Club to that list.

One of Didero’s founders, her name’s Maya, reached out to me when they launched in June and just told me about this company that she started, and I loved the idea. I asked if she’d be open to answering a few of my questions, and she was very generous with her time.

Here’s our quick interview:

How did Didero Games Club come to be? And why now?

Maya: During the pandemic in 2020, my co-founder Jim and I built a similar private library using peer-to-peer shipping to get more jigsaw puzzles to more people stuck at home.  That business continues to grow and our members love it (it’s called the Hoefnagel Puzzle Club).

We engineered the heck out of the peer-to-peer shipping, assuming that we’d find lots more uses for it, but we rejected idea after idea: it just doesn’t make business sense to use our system for renting lawnmowers, books, tuxedos, or cars! 

Then a few months ago we were on a long hike in New Zealand, and we got to brainstorming again, and it hit us that video games could be a great match!  

We called video game economist Aravind Moorthy, and he suggested we focus on Switch games, because Switch has lots of expensive blockbuster games. The Switch has limited memory and is played on-the-go a lot, making physical games handy. 

Researching what was already out there, we found that while Gamefly is a big game rental business with lots of fans, they also get certain patterns of complaints that we don’t get with the puzzle club.

Where did the name, Didero, come from?

Maya: My second favorite Enlightenment philosopher is Denis Diderot (number one is Voltaire). Diderot organized the first Encyclopedia to share knowledge, and was a librarian for Catherine the Great in Russia. So we decided to name our library after him. To make it easier for Americans, we dropped the silent “t” at the end of his French name. We pronounce it “did a row.”  

Dropping the “t” made it possible to register the website, which might have been one of the last free pronounceable domain names with only 6 letters!  

Why did you decide to focus on Switch games? 

Maya: Every factor we looked at pointed to the Switch being the best console for renting physical games at this point in history.

Switch has lots of expensive RPG and puzzle games for adults with limited playtime – games you don’t play over and over –  so it makes a lot of sense to rent those rather than buy. 

The Switch has limited memory and is played on-the-go a lot. 

It’s already a favorite console for people with lousy internet connections who currently buy physical games.

And lots of people own a Switch, since it has been available since 2017.   

Lastly, people kept telling us that Switch was the most popular platform with mature, responsible adults, who are our dream customers.

How did your experience with Hoefnagel Puzzle Club inform what you’re doing with Didero?

Maya: We’ve learned so much about what *will* go wrong with peer-to-peer shipping, and how to make our system robust to inevitable problems and user-friendly when things do go wrong.

For example, when a game comes free, you can’t just choose to ship it to the closest person who wants that game,  or your members in Hawaii will never get games! We’ve developed some beautiful AI to pick who gets each item when it comes free to keep everyone happy and keep costs low.

Why should people consider peer-to-peer libraries like Didero over your corporate competitors?

Maya: We are cheaper, faster, and nicer to customers :).  

Our games spend more time in the hands of gamers, and less time in-transit back-and-forth to a warehouse or sitting on warehouse shelves. When there’s a hot new release, it’s going to go straight from Alice to Bob, which means Bob gets it faster.  

We provide tracked shipping, because tracking info makes customers happy, and helps us run things smoothly. For example, suppose Alice gets busy and doesn’t actually drop her game off at the post office.  Our AI sees that, and automatically gets a 2nd game on its way to Bob. Sure, Bob then might end up having 2 games for a while – we’re okay with that. 

In fact, we’ve learned that we need to have around 1.5 games circulating per member, in order to keep enough games coming free that we can keep everyone happy. 

We call Didero a “club” because when you do peer-to-peer shipping, you are part of a community. And we work hard to make sure it’s a nice, respectful community, and that starts with us being nice and respectful to our customers.  

That friendly community is reflected in the way we grow: ⅓ of our new members for Hoefnagel come from referrals (we give members a free month for every new member they bring in, plus the new member gets a free month).  Having a lot of referrals means a lot of members are friends or friends-of-friends, or just friendly. 

Finally, since Didero Games Club is just getting started, we are giving out some free trials. Email us at and put “Nintendo Watcher Interview” in the email title, and we’ll give the first 100 responders a two-month free trial (USA addresses only).

Justin McGee
Justin McGee
Lifelong Nintendo fan. Follow me on Twitter @PuffyRedShirt

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