By John Walker on October 10th, 2012 at 1:00 pm.
As RPS has long pointed out, staggered international release dates for games may well please high street stores, but they piss off just about everyone else in the world. The archaic, anachronistic notion that a game should come out on Tuesday in the US, and Friday in Europe, was pretty daft when a trip to the shops was the only way to get a game. To still do it when everything is online is aching stupidity. And it’s a real shame to see games as great as XCOM and Dishonored being sullied by this utter nonsense. You want an extra kick in the teeth? On Wednesday 10th October, a day after the game was released in the US, Bethesda have seen fit to release the “UK Launch Trailer”, two full days before it’s actually out over here.
The reason it happens, as best as we’ve ever been able to ascertain, is because of retail. Games have traditionally always been released on a Tuesday in the US, and a Friday in the UK. Before there was an internet concreting over the seas, a US postcard sent boasting about it would arrive in the UK after it had finally been released. Now, however, we see it appearing on our chums’ “now playing” info in Steam, while staring at our own purchased and completely unplayable copy.
Except it’s not unplayable, of course, because if it’s out in the US, it’s accessible to the whole world in a pirated form. Which is something you’d imagine publishers, developers, shops and online retailers would all prefer people didn’t opt for. And yet something publishers, developers, shops and online retailers are all tacitly endorsing when they don’t fight for simultaneous worldwide release dates. Which is why we absolutely despair that this is even still a thing.
It’s especially frustrating and ridiculous when it comes to games as hyped – and as deserving of the hype – as Dishonored. When the press and publisher have been getting people appropriately thrilled to play the game, and when publishing embargoes are all tied to the first – and usually US – release of the game, it becomes a farce for the rest of the world when they then can’t play it. Sure, it’s three days – it doesn’t immediately sound that much. But when the game will be finished by most people in that time, and when the internet means discussion isn’t region-locked, by the time the rest of the world is allowed in, forum threads about the ending are bursting at the seams, and spoiler videos wallpaper the internet. “Hey, we’re having this amazing party over here! We’ve got music and dancing and food and it’s going to be the best time! Your invite is for just after it’s over.”
There are other ways around this, of course. Using proxies/VPN means you can trick Steam into thinking you’re in the US, and play the game that way. However, it’s crucial to note that Valve have made it clear this violates their terms of service, and if caught you could lose your account, and access to all the games you’ve bought with it. If you’re willing to take that risk, and we of course can’t endorse it because we’d hate you to lose your games, there’s a good guide here. (Although note that it hasn’t updated the risk level since Valve changed their ToS.)
But no one should have to risk anything. And that’s why we fervently wish to see an end to this nonsense. Yes, it would require some significant changes to when physical stores receive their stock. There would be infrastructure adjustments to be made. But not impossible ones, and certainly not in a time where the ongoing collapse of gaming retail might mean people want to consider options that would help it, rather than hinder.
Right now half the world is jubilantly enjoying Dishonored and XCOM, and celebrating it in the shared common room of the internet. The other half is staring in frustration, despite likely having already handed over their money, and others presumably sorely tempted to get hold of the game by means they shouldn’t oughtta. And it’s all despite the game’s availability being only a minor adjustment on an online retail store away.
Here’s the localised “launch” trailer for a game that hasn’t actually bloody launched here yet.