By John Walker on March 22nd, 2011 at 5:53 pm.
Crysis 2 comes out today! And Lego Star Wars III! Hooray! Except of course, only if you drawl your vowels. These two big games are out in America only today. Crysis 2 reaches Australia on Thursday, and the finally completes its journey to Europe by Friday. Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars is taking a three day journey to Europe to reach us by Friday, before then walking to Australia to eventually be released eight days after its US launch. We’ve had enough.
No Oceans is RPS’s campaign to have the UK release day for games changed to Tuesday, to come into line with North America. Which will be a lot of work. It means convincing retail to change their delivery days, and reschedule their systems. But we think it’s worth it, both for them and for customers. Here’s why.
There’s an internet now. It’s changed everything. Once we were separate nations kept apart by vast spreads of water. But the internet contains no oceans. The time was a game could come out in North America and we’d not hear about it until the boats arrived carrying news from the new country. But now we can see the Steam page, the giant clocks on the game websites counting down to a day that means nothing, the launch trailers and excitable press releases about something we can’t have yet.
There is nothing publishers like to worry about more than piracy. But like a person with a fear of heights choosing to live in a cable car in space, they do seem to go out of their way to encourage it. Making loud noises about releasing a game – a game that will then be discussed across the internet by those who have completed it in the next couple of days – is a sort of international version of teasing. Impatient gamers, who would very much like to slap down their £30, find that the only way to get the game their friends are playing, and indeed to play the game with their friends, is to download it. It’s about the only realistic evidence for those who like to equate piracy with lost sales.
Which punishes digital download services. Those in the US can click here to pay for the game to download. Those in the UK and elsewhere can’t. But they can click there to download the same game for free.
And this hurts retail too. In a competitive, download-service-led world, launching the big name game on a Friday is almost embarrassing. It’s a bit like GAME announcing they’re going to wait until next Tuesday to start selling the NDS, and are opening at midnight to do it! And this isn’t exclusive to PC games. While only a limited number of Xbox and PS3 titles are being launched in their digital download stores at the moment, this is likely to continue to change, letting gamers more clearly see that they don’t have access to a product their Stateside friends are enjoying. Never mind that the very same problems of online promotion, trailers, and websites all carry information letting console owners know they are being forced to wait too. Your buddies on Xbox Live are all enjoying a multiplayer game of Crysis 2, while you’re looking at your pre-order form in dismay. Or that torrent site.
So we want an end to this. There’s no reason for it any more. Shops selling games are inevitably sitting on piles of the product they’re not allowed to sell until the arbitrary release date. One manager of a game shop recently told me how frustrating it is for them as a retailer to know they have a product their customers want to buy, but are artificially delayed from selling it. Who is this protecting? Publishers and shops tend to love the phrase, “customers want to buy”. And of course it’s even more ludicrous for online retailers, who are prevented from pressing a button. And Americans – don’t think you’re on the lucky side. You only just got Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood on PC today, while we’ve been rolling around in it all weekend.
So we plan to investigate this fully. We will attempt to speak to representative of the major publishers, developers and retailers, to find out what it would take to see the UK’s game release date changed to Tuesday. We’ll try to get the arguments for and against, and hopefully unite a passionate gaming internet into one loud voice calling for simultaneous release dates. It’s not the most important issue facing society today, of course not. But we’re a site about playing games, so our priorities are pretty well set in perspective from the start. We want our games at the same time as our American friends, and publishers and retailers want to do all they can to stop piracy and encourage sales.
If you’re a gaming site and you want to join in this campaign, get in touch. A united front will be far more effective, and it always looks great when competitors work together. Like that time Dennis Potter had Channel 4 and BBC 1 share Cold Lazarus. And if you, passionate reader, want to get involved, comment below with suggestions and ideas for the campaign. I can’t do everything – I had to spend ages on that photoshop.
I think we can get this changed. It won’t be easy. We’re ushering in a new Pangaea. Because the internet has no oceans. It’s time for gaming to catch up.
Oh, go on then, let’s all sign a petition.