Local video store owners hope Congress does not give in to pressure to ban rental of home video games.
Lobbyists for Nintendo Co., the largest producer of home video games, have been urging the House Judiciary Committee to include the games in legislation that would prevent rental of computer software.A subcommittee recently approved a bill without the ban on video game rentals. A similar bill has already passed the Senate.
The legislation is scheduled for a committee vote this week.
Ric Flack, assistant manager of Rocky Mountain Video in West Valley, said Nintendo and Sega System video game rentals have become a large part of the video rental business.
"We have more than 300 titles and they are very popular with the kids, especially on weekends," Flack said.
Rocky Mountain is one of Utah's largest video rental outlets, with more than 10,000 movie titles available.
Toni Acomb, manager of a downtown Blockbuster Video store, said her store carries nearly 200 Nintendo and Sega System titles and they constitute a large part of her store's business.
Many local video stores highlight the availability of Nintendo games on their signs and by prominently displaying the games near checkout counters. And a growing number of stores are including Nintendo game machines in their rental inventory.
Nintendo officials contend that rental outlets are hurting sales, which are projected to reach 70 million units this year. Some toy industry analysts believe the video game craze is peaking and there is evidence that Nintendo officials share that view. Thus the company is seeking greater protection for its products.
Video rental industry officials argue that rentals actually help Nintendo sales in the long run.
"I think game rentals are beneficial because most people will not spend $40 to $50 (the cost of an individual cartridge) on a game unless they have had a chance to play it first," Flack said. "And video stores are buying a lot of the games people simply won't buy."
Flack said the availability of a wide variety of games, especially those that received little advertising hype, is a boon to Nintendo and other game companies.
Current legal precedent appears to favor the video rental industry although there is a patchwork of federal regulations covering rental of published works.
The video industry successfully weathered an attack by the movie industry several years ago. Officials successfully argued that video rentals have not hurt the movie industry despite the dire predictions by Hollywood.
And while video stores do not pay royalties on rentals, the movie industry has enjoyed a huge revenue from the sale of movies to the rental stores.
Observers expect the House to join the Senate and pass the legislation banning rental of computer software. Records already are banned. Supporters say the bans are justified because of the ease by which records and computer programs can be duplicated. They point out that it is nearly impossible to copy video games.
Video game rentals make up 5 to 15 percent of the revenues earned by the nation's 25,000 video stores.