No Oceans: Call For Worldwide Release Dates

By John Walker on March 22nd, 2011 at 5:53 pm.

I imagine this is how God must have felt.

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.

The internet, as depicted by Otto Nassar.

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.

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217 Comments »

  1. evilbobthebob says:

    I wholly agree and think this is a wonderful idea. Good luck RPS. You’ll need it.

  2. Conor says:

    You have my sword, sir.

  3. QuantaCat says:

    I sign this. If possible.

  4. QuantaCat says:

    Also, you could create a video of angry gamers demanding internet releases on time.

  5. Hunam says:

    Thing is, games can release on a tuesday, like Shogun 2 did not last week. Call of Duty and Halo and Half-Life 2 all release on tuesdays too. So it shouldn’t be hard to get all games to follow suit no?

  6. Bilbo says:

    Show me where to sign, I’ll sign it, vote, I’ll vote for it, but all the same I’m not holding my breath for change here

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      WUDDUYA MEAN YA DONT TIP

      He doesn’t believe in it.

      WUDDUYA MEAN YA DON’T BELIEVE INNIT

  7. Mike says:

    I guess what we really want is for the digital stores to stop doing it, right? If the high street wants to continue foot-shooting, it’s welcome to, but at least the digital distribution sites shouldn’t be restricted.

    • randomnine says:

      If digital distribution sites broke with retail on launch dates or RRP for a title, high street chains wouldn’t promote it (or stock it) as heavily. That would mean less sales for that game, so the publisher leans on digital distribution to play fair.

      This isn’t strictly a retail-vs-DD issue. The same dynamic is in play forcing individual retailers to honour launch dates. They could make a killing by selling the game early, but the other chains would object to the publisher, and in turn…

      This stuff has to be fixed at retail or it won’t be fixed at all.

  8. esbates7 says:

    its easier to get games on this side of the pond since we are so crass. the need to prim and proper them up for the European releases ;-)

    seriously though, what gives. no differences in coding and i assume the localization is all done prior to publication in the good ol’ USAAAAAAA.

  9. Greg Wild says:

    Signed!

  10. Nick says:

    and MY axe

  11. pakoito says:

    Heh! 3DS is supposed to be released on 25th but most shops in Madrid are already selling it because one of them started to and they were making KRAZY MONEYS.

  12. Mashakosha says:

    I’m behind you 100%. If what you say is true and retailers too are frustrated by it, then I believe you can get some considerable weight behind you. Go, RPS! Lead the way!

  13. Freud says:

    It’s hard to vote with your wallet in this case, unless you want to be a pirating douchebag. I mean, I still want to reward the developers with my purchase, even if I am not allowed to do it until it’s released here.

    It’s retailers that needs to put pressure on publishers, especially online retailers.

  14. Tei says:

    I think Holywood relaxed the rules about how much time people have to wait to buy a movie in DVD format, wen is not show in theaters anymore.

    The way things are now, is like all games are USA exclusives, and we buy a second hand version, we buy the old version, the one everyone as already seen firt and commented first. We are subject to global spoiling. In this climate, game studios choose to serve us food cold.

  15. mcwizardry says:

    Signed. BTW, I saw Crysis 2 for all platforms at a large retailer here in Austria today but they probably won’t activate until the end of the week on PC.

  16. arccos says:

    I guess you have to start somewhere, but why change the release day to a certain day of the week at all? Is there a reason retail likes to release all their product on a certain day?

    I get why retailers can’t release their stock as soon as it comes off the truck, since different retailers probably get their stock in different shipments and it wouldn’t really be fair to allow a “first to release” shop. Same for digital, since the publisher wants all of the hype/advertising to lead up to a certain day instead of whenever the master gets to Steam or whatever. I guess.

    Do retailers have the flexibility to release one game on Tuesday, one on Thursday, and one on Saturday? And are you pushing for releases worldwide to be in the same day, or at the same exact (worldwide) time?

  17. StingingVelvet says:

    I just want to say thanks for your solution NOT being “get rid of packaged media.” I was worried that would be your solution, but it was not. Us box-addicts are appreciative.

    And I 100% agree with the article.

  18. QualityJeverage says:

    I’m in Canada so we (usually) get games the same day as the US anyway. I’m still with you though. This whole concept of a release that is “rolled out” internationally in just silly now. Maybe the boxed copies of a game aren’t released day and date with the US, fine. But there’s no reason you guys should have to wait an extra three days to grab a game on Steam.

  19. Ultra Superior says:

    Signed

  20. Navagon says:

    I’m definitely with you on this one.

  21. Teddy Leach says:

    I agree! I’ll sign.

    I’ve also posted about it to my blog, in an effort to drum up a few more signatures.

  22. Deano2099 says:

    As John touches on, it’d be one thing if this were just an unavoidable consequence of how things are set up, but publishers rely on this day-1 hype to help sell games, with countdown clocks, sponsoring midnight launches and all that jazz.

    That said, might be better/ more realistic to aim for Wednesday? Just because with the time difference, it’d mean it went on sale in Europe about 8 hours earlier than the US, and I don’t think they’d ever go for that (if you have to favour one audience slightly, it’ll always be the largest one).

    • Archonsod says:

      The point here is that if the game is up on Valve’s servers, then it should be accessible to anyone with Steam no matter where they are.
      And the time difference when it comes to hours has nothing to do with where the audience is and everything to do with where the publisher is based. Gamersgate tends to unlock games a few hours earlier than Steam solely because they’re based in CET while Steam is PST. I very much doubt either would pay their staff to work nightshift to sync a release, and I similarly doubt any large publisher of note is going to particularly care about a timezone difference.

  23. Dominic White says:

    Signed, endorsed, tweeted and generally agreed upon. Bring on the new age.

    • Dozer says:

      We’ve had to endure much, you and I, but within the week there will be old men, running the world. A new age!

  24. Excalibur101 says:

    Signed! I live in America, so I’m not usually affected by the issue, but everyone is entitled to the same quality release-date-manship that I am used to.

  25. pbl64k says:

    You Brits are having it easy. You know when does Bulletstorm come out in Latvia? *Never*. I was falling over my feet to funnel a few bucks to the developers through Steam, but, apparently, our euros smell funny or something. At least I don’t know how else should I parse “not available in my “region”. Whatever.

    Remember that Wot I Think on DCUO? You people really sold me on it! Only Sony wouldn’t sell it to me, because, I guess, I’m too round-eyed and hairy for their refined Japanese sensibilities. Three-day delay? Puh-lease. With Homefront, that actually helped me to avoid spending my money on crap.

    • Tei says:

      A supercrappy solution for your problem could be to buy a account for internet by modem in some european country except germany. Then you will be connected to the internet trought this conexion. You can do that: buy the game / unlock the game trought modem, then disconnect from the modem, and download the game with your normal conexion.
      There use to be possible to use VPN to do that, but the last time I tried it with Steam, it failed. So seems Steam has become wiser here*
      The modem solution can be expensive, trought… maybe.. or maybe you can use a plan that let you flag a phone as special, then flag the phone of your modem ISP has this one :D
      *but hacker always find the way **
      ** At times I am tempted to rent a virtual server in USA, to use VPN with it to watch Hulu and Netflix. That probably will work. I don’t know why we europeans are not allowed to use Netflix…

    • pbl64k says:

      A fine solution to my problem is not giving my money to the morons who don’t want it.

      Also, don’t try that US VDS scheme of yours. Cheap plans are not designed for gratuitous media proxying and come with monthly traffic caps only sufficient for the purposes they’re meant for, like pre-production testing, small scale deployments, backup sites etc.

    • Archonsod says:

      “There use to be possible to use VPN to do that, but the last time I tried it with Steam, it failed. So seems Steam has become wiser here*”

      They’re just blacklisting anon-proxies as far as I can tell. Means you actually have to configure the connection properly rather than using the VPN shortcut, using a proxy they’re unlikely to block that will let the connection through (universities tend to be good for it, and I can’t see Valve wanting to drop college campuses from their customer base).

      Alternative is simply to crack the Steam version, though that definitely breaks the ToS and would result in account termination if caught. Nonetheless, given even pre-loads have been cracked I can’t see it taking longer than an hour for a region restriction to be removed.

    • JohnnyK says:

      Not that it solves the underlying issue, but…
      It should still be possible to gift you the game via Steam. I’ve done that loads of times for guys in Germany who wanted uncensored versions of eg. UT3, L4D etc. I also got MLB2k10 gifted to me via Steam, and that wasn’t available here in Austria either.

      Anyway, if you want we can try things; shoot me a pm. Of course the best way would be to ask an American as the game is then also cheaper than in €.

    • Archonsod says:

      Gifting isn’t a problem, it’s just getting around the region locking. You can gift a game from any region to any region as far as I’m aware. But if it’s not released in that region until Friday, then it’ll show up as a pre-order in the account until Friday.

      Unless of course you convince Steam you’re in that region.

    • JohnnyK says:

      Well, from how I understood it, pbl’s issue is not the release date but the game not being available _at all_.

    • pbl64k says:

      Not being available at all it is. Because GFWL, may its conceivers burn in fiery hell for all eternity, only recognizes the existence of some 35 countries out of 193.

  26. ArcaneSaint says:

    So, how are we gonna solve this? Stab bad guys? I think we should stab bad guys!

    oh, and /signed too. If you want I could set someone’s house on fire to ‘convince’ them to shift their release date :P

  27. DeathHamsterDude says:

    Huzzah!

    On the internet you can surf, but there are no oceans!

  28. Avenger says:

    I live in a third world country where it takes MONTHS for games to reach and at 3 times the prices.
    UK, You are being overcritical…

    • Nick says:

      worse things don’t cancel out bad things.

    • Avenger says:

      Yeah, I still agree with “Internet has no oceans” idea. I am just not content with RPS tackling it as a UK problem.

      It is actually a problem bigger than games. It is called “Global Content”.
      Providers are (for some backwards thinking reason) prevent their content from being sold or distributed to certain countries.

      Who can adequately defend the idea that is behind the “This video is not available in your country” thing?

      Our beloved digital distribution haven Steam does it too you know. Or don’t you? You probably don’t…

    • Teddy Leach says:

      You do realise that the petition covers the entire world? You do realise that the title for this post is “Call For Worldwide Release Dates”?

  29. ntw says:

    show me where to sign.

    Also, fix film release dates at the same time.

  30. Ricc says:

    I fully support this campaign! Bring on them gold masters!

  31. Stephen Roberts says:

    You better be careful RPS. Or you’ll start changing things for the better. Then everyone will want a piece. It’s a slippery slope to ‘doing things that make sense’, you know.

  32. jsbenjamin says:

    Hear, hear! Full disclosure: I’m a Yankee myself – but you’d think the video game industry especially wouldn’t be so resistant to moving into the 21st Century!

  33. Bantros says:

    Who even sells PC games in stores anymore? Because the real retail powerhouses like Tesco and Asda (who of course launch console games with ridiculously low prices because they can do what they want) have hardly any, and they aren’t brand new titles. GAME has abandoned PC games so they can fuck right off.

    Tuesdays are a stupid day for release anyway, damn Yanks. Quite clearly a Friday release is the most sensible as most people would have a weekend off. What the hell do you do on a Tuesday? Come home from work, have dinner, play a few hours, then a few more and ultimately ruin your next day because of your lack of sleep. Of course when I was a student queuing up for games at midnight it didn’t matter

    • StingingVelvet says:

      In the US many stores still stock PC games pretty well. Notably Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart of all places. Also amazon.com obviously is a place to get boxed versions, usually delivered on release day for 99cents.

    • Archonsod says:

      GAME actually has their own digital download service, and it’s not particularly awful either.

    • DrGonzo says:

      GAME does indeed have a pretty good PC game download service. And also, I’ve said it here before actually, their PC section is often the biggest section in the shop, it’s just that a huge amount of it is budget or old games.

      It is easy to mistake the fact that GAME are shit in general with them being particularly shit with PC though I admit.

    • Bantros says:

      I should’ve stressed that I meant the retail store GAME and not their DD

  34. marach says:

    The most common reason I’ve heard bandied about is “We release then so we get better sales for the charts!” which is complete rubbish. If you look at the pattern though the games released on a Tuesday in the UK tend to be those that are either going to be no.1 in the charts no matter what or don’t care about their place in the charts.

    I wonder what would happen if the chart companies started insisting on games being on sale for at least 5 days before listing them..

  35. 7rigger says:

    Signed!

    Finally someone starts talking sense (Especially as most DVD’s are released on Mondays) about this. If a retail store could release on a Tuesday, they could see sales and re-stock in time for the weekend sales – or not.

    Everybody wins in this situation, and splitting release dates just complicates an issue that shouldn’t even be there.

    First Britain, then the world!

    EDIT: It’s quite fascinating seeing all the real names and locations show up on the petition. I’m playing a fun game where I try to guess who is who

  36. gorgol says:

    Sure why not. /Signed.

  37. Jubaal says:

    I totally agree with your stance, can’t think of any ideas at the moment, but just wanted to show my support.

    Edit: Oh folks, don’t just post here but complete Mr Walker’s Petition here: http://www.petition.co.uk/rock-paper-shotgun-says-no-oceans

    Need more signatures please.

  38. Frools says:

    Friday releases are particularly bad too because if you order from amazon/play/whatever and there are delivery issues (im looking at you HDNL!) theres a good chance you won’t get it until Monday

  39. jezcentral says:

    Signed. I like the digital global village.

  40. N'Al says:

    I’ll fully endorse this so long as it doesn’t entail me dancing nekkid through the streets.

    Actually, scratch that, I’ll do that too.

  41. RyanTimes says:

    HEAR HEAR

    Though i will say, it’s not any better on the off chance we get games released before the states. Like with the recent Pokemon Black/White release, the US release being delayed by a few days certainly did not help with the pirates. Nintendo never really follows suit with the rest of the industry does it though.

    As far as digital distribution is concerned, it is completely shooting themselves in the foot by withholding simultaneous release dates.

    I’m honestly pleased that you guys at RPS are doing this, it would be nice to know what the reason for specific release dates are. I’ve heard weekend releases are to maximise day one sales, it would be great to find out the other factors.

  42. Chufty says:

    Totally signed.

    Make sure we spam the press, gaming and otherwise, with this campaign. These things are all about momentum.

  43. ran93r says:

    I’m in. Particularly pissed today as Swarm launches on the PSN in Haymerica but we won’t see it until the 30th … not that I should be talking about console things but you know, illustrating my plight and all. I mean what’s the hold up, the translation? Hello = Ello Guvnor. (ok there are “other” european languages but I’m on a roll here)

  44. bansama says:

    I find it very funny that you’re getting so worked up over a few days wait for games. Try waiting several months to a year for a game to release. Just as one example, we’ve been waiting nigh on 7 months for Mafia 2 to release on Steam. We waited over 3 months for Red Faction Guerrilla to unlock on Steam. We have to wait until next month for Homefront. And the list goes on. A few days wait? Hah! I wish I could be so lucky.

  45. Jad says:

    As an American I would be fine if the US moved our date back to Friday. I’ve got a pre-ordered copy of Crysis 2 sitting at my apartment right now. I’ll be able to play for maybe 3 hours tonight, and then I’m busy every other night this week and won’t be able to play until Saturday anyway.

    But yes, please standardize release dates. Doesn’t matter what day of the week it is, but pick one and stick to it!

  46. MrWolf says:

    Signed.

    WHO’S WITH ME!?!?!

  47. skinlo says:

    Great plan!

  48. Alexander Norris says:

    Isn’t the fact that games are twice the price in the EU and Australia than they are in the UK and US worse for gamers than having to wait for three more days for a game to come out?

    Obviously, these idiotic release dates harm the games industry as well – but they harm the industry more than they harm us, unlike the arbitrary price differences.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Yes, but is that a battle that can be won? If Europe are paying those prices then I don’t see the incentive to reduce them…

      At least with this there’s a way of going “hey, this will make you more money too”

    • John Walker says:

      One industry changing campaign at a time.

    • JohnnyMaverik says:

      Yea but release dates are annoying. Australia in particular gets a lot worse than a few days delay sometimes.

    • Carra says:

      My thoughts exactly. Having to pay 50% more for my games is higher on my priority list.
      Still, having world wide release dates would be great and it’s really boggling why it’s not already so. Game publishers are cutting in their own pockets.

    • Tunips says:

      We might get a middle-east style rolling wave of change out of this. Sensible pricing would make a good Libya, after the Tunisia of release dates and the Egypt of region lockouts.
      Wait…

    • wu wei says:

      I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for Namco Bandai Partners to stop being cocks any time soon. They’ve been milking the Australian video game market for 30 years now.

  49. Sparks-A-Lot says:

    Well, quite appropriate for my first comment on this here site.

    This has been something that has stuck in my craw since I moved across the Atlantic. Fantastic article that makes many points I’ve been making on various message boards I frequent for the last two years. It reminds me of the music industry sticking to purely arbitrary policies in the face of rampant piracy and being unwilling to bend or break those policies even though it would obviously help battle people stealing their product. No, suing the offhand person for vast amounts of money they likely don’t have is the way to go!

    Fact is, gamers are an impatient lot. Here in the Netherlands many stores will stock a game a few days before the actual release date. I picked up Final Fantasy 13 this way, as well as Fallout New Vegas. FF13 was good to go (shame the game itself was a stinker, but that’s another discussion), unfortunately after installing FNV I received and error message saying the game’s release date hadn’t passed. So here I am, game in hand, money out of my pocket, yet I can’t play the game. For what reason? None what so ever. The only way around a situation like that is to download a crack. So then you have a person who legitimately purchased the game, but still is contributing to piracy in a small way just to be able to use the product they just purchased.

    The gaming industry is changing, and those releasing the games need to change with it. If they don’t there is a great possibility that they could end up like the music industry, and no one wants that.

  50. Om says:

    Contrary to what your header image suggests, Ireland is not in the United Kingdom. Nor, unless I’m very mistaken, is the Indian subcontinent. Which reveals this ‘No Oceans’ plea for what it really is: a neo-imperialist subterfuge designed to re-establish Britain’s place as the headquarters of global capital