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. Dante says:

    I remember when we didn’t get games till months after the US! Kids today, don’t even know how lucky they are!

    NB: I am younger than all the RPS writers.

  2. Crumpled Stiltskin says:

    Call me Benedict Arnold , but as an American I will join your cause. Because, this can happen in the other direction as well. Also, you British are so polite sounding its hard to not root for you.

    • Moonracer says:

      I’m also from the US and support this. The whole thing is silly.

  3. Airemacar says:

    I rarely buy games at launch, and I’m an American so I usually can get them first, but I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment and think it is absolutely ridiculous to force retailers and distributors to artificially delay products which are ready to be released.

    In fact, with pricing differences between various markets, it may even be anti-competitive (games are often cheaper in dollars than pounds or euros, since companies for some reason think $50 = L50).

  4. frenz0rz says:

    Signed, and I’ll make a news post on my clan website for a bit of publicity.

  5. Phoshi says:

    You go, guys. Good luck, if you make even a single publisher change their mind, I will love you even more foreverer than I already will.

  6. jonfitt says:

    It’s silly to not align the days, but I find it hard to give more than a meh. I haven’t bought a game at release in so long I can’t remember the last one. Steam sales and a backlog of excellent games mean that I am not even aware of release dates or days.

    I hear Dragon Age 2 is out? That’s nice, but I have the Ultimate Edition of DA:O waiting for me to play. I’ll probably pick DA2 up when it’s cheap and includes all the divisive DLC.

    Release dates are for the impatient.

  7. Crescend says:

    Wonderful, it’s about time something was done about this situation. Viva la revolucion ^^

  8. GunFox says:

    You want every nation in the EU, the United States, New Zealand, and Aussie land to all reschedule their ENTIRE ELECTRONICS RETAIL sales tallying system so that there isn’t a 3 day gap between the first day of each system. The US starts on a Tuesday, and the EU (mostly) starts on a Friday. You get it second because the alternative would be Friday then Tuesday, which is a longer gap than the three day gap between Tuesday and Friday, and would make the problem worse.

    It pisses me off too, but it isn’t going to happen. They do it this way because nobody can produce a workable alternative.

    • Shadram says:

      If they can manage it for AAA movie releases, they can do the same for AAA game releases.

    • GunFox says:

      Movies release in movie theaters. A store totally designed to display new movies. What is being asked for here is for one small component of most stores to bring about a complete change in how they tally sales. Wal-Mart, Bestbuy, Target, and every other major chain retailer that sells games, but doesn’t specialize in them, are not going to completely alter their entire business plan so that video games release on the same day. This would ripple all sorts of changes outward across the retail industry of nations across the world for something that is ultimately not that important.

      I’m not arguing that it shouldn’t change, I’m just pointing out why it is extremely unlikely that it will or could.

    • Archonsod says:

      As you point out though, none of the stores selling games specialise in them, they couldn’t care less about the release date. The digital stores do and could.

    • GunFox says:

      They still want maximum profit from the section. Thus they tear publishers/developers a new one every time they try to give digital distribution an edge over brick and mortar.

      I know, I know, it is ridiculous, and I hate them for it, but I also understand their reasoning.

      The only way to support this campaign is to stop buying games from physical stores entirely. Physical stores are the only ones who really care about this enough to fight it.

      Basically it boils down to you either want video games to still appear in stores and can tolerate the staged releases, or you want the video game sections in stores to die almost universally and rely on online retailers and digital distributors entirely.

      Frankly I wouldn’t lament the loss of the physical videogame retailer, but I feel like some people may.

    • Shadram says:

      Retailers won’t stop stocking games if they changed the release date. Dedicated shops would otherwise have nothing to sell, and the big supermarkets (Asda, Tesco, etc) probably don’t care when they put the new games on the shelves, so long as they’re selling and making a profit. So long as digital and physical copies go on sale at the same time, retail should be satisfied. I mean, EBGames can’t exactly stop stocking EA games just because they’re released on Tuesdays instead of Fridays and expect to survive, can they?

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      I find it very difficult to believe changing the date the sales week “starts” is *that* inconvenient.

      And even if it is, fuck ‘em. Customers are the point of retail, so retail can adapt to keep our custom.

  9. Premium User Badge

    JB says:

    Signeded. Hurrah for RPS.

    So what’s the industry changing campaign after this?

  10. Shadram says:

    Despite living in New Zealand, and thus treated by the games industry like an unwanted appendage to the Earth’s anus (Australia), I endorse this petition.

    Will petitioning retail help, though? I mean, they don’t give a rats ass about selling games unless they’re second hand, and barely stock any PC games at all. Couldn’t we just convince publishers to just go ahead and release games for downloads simultaneously in all territories (for the same price, or is that asking too much?), which would force retail to either play along and release simultaneously, or be late to the party?

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      I can’t speak for you sheep shaggers, but over here on the big island, EB tend to have a pretty big PC range. Of course, 30% of it is Sims expansions, but you can’t have everything.

      Game’s not as good, though. Then again, Game’s just a bit shit in general.

  11. Acosta says:

    Who I have to kill in the name of this sacred crusade? Mark a target for me and he/she will be history.

  12. wiper says:

    Signed up, though I’d be a little happier if that website acknowledged the existence of my county (that’d be Newport, or if you’re ten years out of date, Gwent).

    *shakes fist at stupid petition website*

    • Meneth says:

      I’d be happier if the website acknowledged the existence of individual countries other than the UK.

  13. Po0py says:

    More of this please! More activisim in the games industry!

    Finally RPS pulls their finger out! Wooo! I think there needs to be some kind of Facebook thing going on with this too. What say you?. Not a bad idea to fight this on multiple fronts.

  14. LostSoviet says:

    I wholeheartedly agree that real-world game release disparities should have been rendered invalid by digital distribution. Obeying rules set out by the physical media distribution companies to carve up the world in borderline insane in the digital age.

    That said, my experience running my deals blog shows that even the internet has oceans. Just look at R.U.S.E. on Get Games – if you can, because it won’t show up while your currency is set to $. How long has that title been out? On the flipside, Impulse is infamous for snubbing everyone outside of North America with its discounts.

    Anyway, /signed and cross-posted to my blog. Hopefully, getting rid of the underlying cause (physical media restrictions) will help remove internet silliness.

    • Jad says:

      real-world game release disparities should have been rendered invalid by digital distribution

      I know that this is a PC gaming site, but still this complaint is incredibly myopic. All of the major publishers have very large stakes in console gaming, and consoles have not jumped on the digital distribution bandwagon to nearly the same degree as PC gaming. Maybe PC-only publishers like Paradox or Stardock could afford to say “screw you” to the retailers, but not EA or THQ or the others. Heck, even on PC the estimated sales split between digital and retail is still somewhere around 50/50, so it would be dangerous to do this for even PC-only releases.

      Which is why John is being smart and is focusing the attention of this petition primarily on retailers, as they still are who set the release dates. Make them change, and digital distributors can change too. But not the other way around.

    • Shadram says:

      It works the other way, though. If all the publishers said “we’re now doing simultaneous worldwide releases” then the retailers would very quickly adapt their policies to cope with this.

      And even if not all publishers agreed to do this, if EA suddenly decided that they would, can you imagine any retailer saying “OK, we’re not going to stock EA games any more”?

      The whole idea that retailers are holding publishers to ransom is silly, it’s the other way around. Publishers will always find someone to sell their games, but retailers need to be on the good side of the publishers else they’ll have nothing to sell (speaking of purely games stores, of course).

  15. Gunstar Zero says:

    no problems using steam and vpn here to get stuff on US release dates using vypervpn:

    https://www.goldenfrog.com/vyprvpn/secure-private-vpn

    • Bantros says:

      They can disable your account for that. Will they find out? Don’t know, but I ain’t willing to risk 100+ games

  16. Outsider says:

    Signed. I’m in the U.S., and I feel for you guys.

  17. lethu says:

    If this means Europe sticks to Africa, I am in…. Hell count me in even twice!

  18. SuperNashwan says:

    I wholeheartedly endorse rubbing the industry’s nose in its mess until it learns better on this. Remember this is an industry that’s only just figured out in the last year or so that releasing every AAA game in the same two month period with loads of competition from every other publisher’s lead title is a bad idea.

  19. Kefren says:

    And my bow!

  20. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    I don’t tend to buy games at launch, but I agree, they should be released concurrently. Best of luck with that, after all you made us a promise Mr Walker and we’re not oging to let you forget it!

  21. 12kill4 says:

    Holy critique of political economy Batman!

  22. D3xter says:

    Wouldn’t this be like logically moar better for them? Preventing Day1 Piracy and all that?

    Gah, maybe I should finish reading next time :P

  23. Aurensar says:

    I’m not sure if anyone’s mentioned this yet, but there were two pretty big launches last year that did have worldwide (or at least, loads more countries than usual all at once) release dates.

    Even more oddly, they both came from a little-known company called Blizzard. Starcraft II released on Tuesday, 27th July and WoW: Cataclysm on Tuesday, 7th December.

    Why are Blizzard allowed to release games on Tuesday (in the UK) including retail and digital? Is it something to do with being PC exclusives?

    Come on publishers. Blizzard have lots of money, so they’re clearly doing it right. If they’re using a loophole, find it and copy it, and then you also will have lots of money.

    • Optimaximal says:

      I think the fact that Activision Blizzard *have* more money than the rest of the world combined means they can dictate release dates.

      Also, it would be mad for the brick & mortar outlets to fight said release dates, especially if one of their competitors broke said date and stole all their sales.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      Blizzard (and Activision in general) have the most power to dictate terms to retailers for their biggest releases, I imagine.

      “Want SC2 and Wow:C? Sell it on Tuesday or don’t sell it at all. YOUR MOVE.”

    • Milky1985 says:

      In your hated console world Final Fantasy 13 also had a 99% global launch (i think it was out in japan before, but US/UK /EU etc all came out at the same time). If a game that has lots of text and voiceovers can do it theres no reason something like crysis 2 can’t.

    • Ovno says:

      Or…

      EA have the most power to dictate terms to retailers for their biggest releases, I imagine.

      “Want CODBLOPS? Sell it on Tuesday or don’t sell it at all. YOUR MOVE.”

  24. Premium User Badge

    Rikard Peterson says:

    It’d be interesting to hear the reason for not releasing globally at once. I don’t understand why, but I assume there is a reason… or?

    Oh, and do you have a higher resolution of that map?

  25. MiniMatt says:

    The lunacy really shows up on unlock dates for preloaded games. Pre-load on a laptop outside the USA, then *fly* to the USA on Tuesday, unlock, and fly back to blighty. This, apparently, is all fine and dandy. *Sorta* fly to the USA, by well, popping out of a stars & stripes coloured VPN tunnel may or may not be fine and dandy but no-one seems too fussed.

    It’s bonkers, the entire world has the game preloaded, and when it magically starts working depends entirely on a geo-IP lookup of where your ISP or tunnel happens to pop out. If I were to install on a works PC, and all my works internet traffic gets routed through to a breakout point in the USA then my games would work on Tuesday – would I be breaking the law? the rules? Should I abstain from playing my unlocked games till Friday? (“should I be installing games on works PCs” is perhaps a seperate issue)

  26. brog says:

    I really don’t care about release dates. Regional pricing, on the other hand..

  27. Optimaximal says:

    You have the signature of Grand Air Marshal Andrew Bryant on your petition…

    Unfortunately, the lame software means I am officially represented as ‘Grand Andrew Bryant’…

    That is all.

  28. Cynic says:

    I say, there are TWO Sussexes, you know. I’m from one and live in the other.

  29. Optimaximal says:

    Funny Story -

    LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars is now ready for purchase! For @Steam_Games: http://bit.ly/hwvvt8 , or @direct2drive http://bit.ly/hdwmXf

    Source – @lucasartsgames

  30. JFS says:

    It’s a German map up there at the top of the article, which goes to prove that at least RPS has no oceans. Let’s head on further!

  31. Zwebbie says:

    Yes, publishers and developers, you can try to take away consumer rights like reselling, and we’ve let you, but deciding when you are going to release your game, that’s just going too far.

    /sarcasm.

    C’mon, John, can you really see so few injustices that you have to fight inconveniences?

    • Thants says:

      No one really seems to mind that you suddenly can’t sell or give away a game you’ve bought on a digital service or that you don’t really own the games, steam can just take them away any time they want. Which is a shame.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      No one seems to mind that the same game is sold on the same digital store in some countries for 1.5 – 2 times what it sells in others (if it’s being sold at all in some countries). You’re downloading the same bits & bytes as everyone else yet it’s automagically twice as expensive if you happen to live somewhere the publishers think should be charged a stupid amount. Sure there’s ways to circumvent the system like having a friend gift the game through Steam & then reimbursing them through paypal but the very fact that people are trying to circumvent this stupid system should point out how ludicrous it is in the first place.

      But yeah having to wait a few days deserves some rage right? I guess if games journalists had to pay for games there might be more outrage (review scores would probably take a drop too but that’s a whole other discussion).

  32. Megadyptes says:

    I just can’t sign enough internet petitions!

  33. Stevostin says:

    The main, true reason about fighting the delayed release is because it’s so embarrassingly stupid. It’s the kind of idea that exist in the sale department. The sale department is usually where all the retarded who are not good at anything but fighting over decimal on all sort of prices go. Letting those guys decide about important thing about the real deal that are game is like letting the house mate decide how you should arrange your furniture. It’s complete non-sense.

  34. Sarlix says:

    Signed and signed. And I mean signed.

  35. Grayvern says:

    For the glory of Amn

  36. Nihilille says:

    It’s not like the physical copies aren’t there either. I always preorder physical copies (name ps3 titles, everything pc goes via steam) from the same website. If a game is released on friday, I’ll get an email on wednesday saying it’s been despatched and it’ll always arrive on thursday (not sure if they are allowed to do this but I guess there’s some clause saying preorders are allowed to be sent with an error margin on delivery time).

    Rabble rabble.

  37. wcaypahwat says:

    Apparently Australia doesn’t get LEGO starwars for PC at all :(

    http://www.ebgames.com.au/sale-product-1120-home-Lego-Star-Wars-III-The-Clone-Wars

  38. sassy says:

    A worthy fight but I would want one world pricing before a one world release date … then again I am patient but love my wallet!

    • JFS says:

      Yes, that would be beautiful. Seeing how the US pay 9.99 $ for a nice indie Steam game whereas we old-worlders pay 9.99 € is just disgusting. Especially in the case of digitally distributed games, which are not even localized or anything. I just calculated it, as of today that is three stolen eurocoins for us in the above case. That is one sixpack of lovely German beer! A WHOLE sixpack!

      RPS, I demand you do initiate another campaign. If you are successful, I will from then on transfer the saved money to you (in the form of beer).

    • MiniMatt says:

      Much as I’d like one world pricing too, that’s *to some degree but by no means all* outside of games publishers hands until we get a one world economy too, with identical tax structures and cost of living across the globe. I’d quite like one world pricing on petrol too. And houses.

      But yeah, they’re definitely guilty of some hefty rounding up, aka 10 dollars / 10 pounds / 10 euros.

  39. NegativeZero says:

    While we’re at it, how about getting rid of this whole antiquated regional lockout thing? Australia isn’t part of Europe and it makes no sense for us to be, except that in the dim, dark past our consoles were hooked up to the same PAL TV standard. And I’m not just talking about regional lockouts on the software itself – it’s incredibly annoying to be prevented from accessing content through digital distribution because of where I live. The internet has no oceans and no borders.

    At least Atari don’t seem to be publishing stuff any more. Whenever they handled a PAL release of a game, they’d quote the UK release date as the Australian one. But that would be the date that they put it into a boat in Europe somewhere to actually ship it here, and it wouldn’t arrive in AU stores for three or four weeks after that. Used to piss off the retailers I would preorder through to no end.

  40. Inpropagation says:

    Signed!

    The only thing I hate more is regional DD pricing!

    It’s the same data, it’s the same delivery, so why the fuck is DOW2 Retribution’s price doubled because I have an Australian I.P? an extra $10 for Crysis 2? an extra $40 for Shogun 2?

    And nobody give me any crap about brick and mortar retailers, PC games presence at retail in this country is laughable, and practically non-existent.

  41. Namos says:

    *cue dramatic music*

    Signed!

    Let loose the dogs of “making sense”.

  42. limbclock says:

    I would sign this petition as well…

    If it wasn’t meant for people living in the UK Only.

    Then again, i guess that Finnish people who’ll order games from Amazon shall also get them sooner, as they’ll arrive there faster. Unless then amazon’s all like “you can’t order this yet, you live in Finland!”

  43. Premium User Badge

    JayG says:

    I signed it, just use the not UK tab. I also tend to get most my games from Amazon, and can take a while to arrive because of customs.

  44. Premium User Badge

    Mister_Inveigler says:

    You get my vote, that’s for certain.

    What about exclusive region content? Or region coding? Not only in the games themselves but for the DLC of the game.
    I can write pages on this subject, so I’d best stop here…

  45. thebigJ_A says:

    Hey, here in Boston we don’t drawl our vowels! Luckily, we also gave up on the letter “R” after the vowels A,O, I,and E, too. We still use it in words like “turn”, ‘cuz that’s how people are supposed to talk. And we put it back where it’s supposed to go, which is at the beginning of words that start with vowels if they come after a word ending in a vowel sound (“soda is wicked good” is “sodeh-ris wicked good”). Your welcome.

    Please don’t lump us Bostonian Americans in with those midwesterners, or *shudder* southerners! (Pronounced “suthinuhs”, just like it says in the dictionary!)

  46. Jade Raven says:

    No-one should be allowed to sell games but GOG. One world-wide release date, one world-wide price, a true wonder of the modern world that site is.

  47. Daz says:

    As I sit here itching to play Crysis 2 I wholly agree with this and wish you the best of luck, if you do manage to pull it off then you will have my eternal gratitude :)

  48. Milky1985 says:

    There is a easy but slightly underhanded way of doing this, which is based on what i predict will happen soon enough anyway.

    Basically game reviews come out when the US game comes out, if the game is bad but has been built up on hype at this point, but its actually terrible all the US people have the game but the UK peeps now know its bad. They are now busy cancelling pre-orders and deceding not to buy it, this directly affects the sales of the games in other areas and makes publisher bosses annoyed.

    Sooner or later they will relaises that if they merge the release dates this cannot happen so we will get games at the same time, but may not have the awful game warning!

    The underhanded way is basically to speed it up by marking everything 2 points lower than they think for a couple of months, huitting there metacritic!! Force the hands of the publishers (and it might also stop the stupid fact that games sites can’t be honest with publishers for fear of not getting games to review)

    But it will happen soon enough even without the underhandedness, simple because publishers love money and there current ideas are costing them money.

  49. BigRedS says:

    Surely it makes *more* sense to stagger the release days now that everybody’s downloading the game rather than buying from a real-life shop? Way better to spread the load over a few days than need to concoct some world-serving cluster for a day every so often.

    But, then again, I’m still discovering games released in 2004. I’m used to waiting…

    • Schadenfreude says:

      They already spread the load over a few days by letting you pre-load the game. And the whole world gets to pre-load at the same time; it’s just the final few bytes of unlock data that you have to wait for.

      It really is remarkably silly.

    • Milky1985 says:

      “They already spread the load over a few days by letting you pre-load the game.”

      Unfortantly this isn’t true a lot of the time, Bulletstorm was the most recent one that didn’t do this (unless you used a trick to install it). For some reason its a bit slapdash with what you can and can’t pre-load. No idea why :/

  50. cmi says:

    Tbh delayed releases aren’t that bad. Saved me from my DA2 preorder for example. With todays practice of “don’t publish reviews before release” (or if you do, make sure its 95%+) Otherwise, I would have got some “turned out it wasn’t that good” (preordered) games. On the other hand, I got some preorder bonuses for some “turned out it was quite good”-games.

    So: it might suck others can play the game, but I’m not really the “omgomgomg I have to play this NOW”-kind of gamer.