It is with a mixture of hope and utter despair that I greet the news from EA that they will be aligning UK releases with the rest of Europe, and putting out new games on a Thursday in RPS's mother isle. Hope, because of what it represents in terms of a major publisher pushing back against the control of retailers. Despair because it's still two bloody days later than America.
Although, to be honest, I'd kind of forgotten anyone was still adhering to these publication days anyway. Back in 2011, it was one of our big campaigns, known as No Oceans. The idea being, there are no oceans separating nations on the internet, so the archaic institution of delaying a Europe/UK/Aus release of a game because of needing to ship it from the USA is long-since passed. It's remained in place because the infrastructure around brick-n-mortar release schedules hasn't changed, despite the achingly stupid lack of common sense it now entails. A game released on Tuesday in America is not only obviously instantly available to the rest of the world via piracy during a time when no legitimate means of immediate procurement is possible, but it's also posted in its entirety to YouTube, widely discussed on forums, and probably spoiled in a thousand memes, before the shops have opened on Friday morning.
Over the years, Steam and other online retailers have seen companies increasingly releasing internationally, or Steam versions unlocking earlier than their stated release date. And even when they don't, a simple VPNning means you can get the game downloaded and installed, then have it safely in your account, legitimately paid for. (Steam threatens bans for such antics, it should be said.) So it feels a little anachronistic to hear EA making such a statement. A statement that reads,
"Until now, players in the UK have had to wait until Friday for new EA games to release, one day after the rest of Europe. We realised that players wanted to be able to get in the game the same time as their friends across Europe and we’re happy to make this change."
It's a completely daft sentiment, as if people in the UK were shaking their fists at Germany or Spain, but completely cool with that other notoriously English-speaking country a little farther away. So obvious is the nonsense of the statement that it makes it ring a little hollow. Makes me wonder if it saves them a bunch of money to have it all happen on the same day, or the like. But either way, hurrah, it's a step closer to common sense. Although just a step.
It does mean some games have tweaked their release days. FIFA 16 will now be 24th September, Need For Speed's latest reinvention joins us on 5th November, and Star Wars Battlefront will be 19th November. Of course, all those dates remain two days later than the US release, making a mockery of the entire concept, and directly encouraging people who would otherwise have paid toward piracy. Good work, publishers!