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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

Xbox One X
Nintendo Switch
PlayStation 4

Game Profile
GENRE: First Person Shooter
PLAYERS:   1-16
November 09, 2004

Halo Wars 2

Halo 5 Guardians

Halo: New 343 Industries Game

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary

Halo: Reach

More in this Series
Halo 2
Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition
 Written by Adam Woolcott  on January 31, 2006

Specials: Or, you better pre-order, suckers!

New Release Tuesday. To a music fan, a DVD enthusiast, or a bookworm, New Release Tuesdays are reasons to keep on living; every Tuesday, by hook or by crook, these fanatics can walk into their local businesses and pick up the hottest new titles, without any fuss or waiting for UPS trucks to arrive; stores get the product and have it ready before the doors open. Unless something totally sells out on that first day, or a delivery company goes on strike (like UPS did in the late 1990's) you can guarantee walking out the door a happy person. Generally, movies open on Fridays, or an occasional special Wednesday release, so there's no guessing games as to when you can drop into your local theatre to view the hottest new flick. However, when it comes to gaming...this phenomenon of convenience is nonexistent, unless it's a major event that transcends the medium. Though it may seem like a minor issue to many, it's one of the small handful of things that keeps our business a bit lagging compared to other forms of entertainment. In short, game releases need standardization, to prevent confusion, frustration, and ultimately, missed opportunities to woo less hardcore gamers into that impulse Tuesday buy along with their other purchases.

Granted, for many of us older gamers who lived through the NES era, or even longer than that, even having release dates is somewhat of a miracle; back in those days we barely knew what month a game was coming out; it just happened to appear in the most recent advertisements or in the smallish game section of a local department store. Without things like game magazines, Internet access, or mainstream media attention, judging a game release was a shot in the dark. Obviously much of this had to do with gaming's stigma of being considered kiddie diversions ? nobody really cared much about when games would come out unless it was a video game boutique like EB or Software, ETC (now GameStop), and even they usually only had ballpark figures. There were a few exceptions, such as the release date of hardware, and special events. Anyone over the age of 15 should likely remember things like Mortal Monday, when Mortal Kombat hit shelves all across the US. But these were rare happenings.

So, anyway, why am I bitching? Because even though we've come a long way (baby), gaming still has much catching up to do when it comes to making sure games are widely available on the first day. Case in point, last week, Devil May Cry 3 Special Edition shipped. Supposedly. I say supposedly because no stores in my area even have the game, since they haven't received their shipments from distributors. Why? Admittedly, this is a special case; DMC3SE is technically the Greatest Hits version of a game that released last March, and it carries the same SKU as the original, which is why many gaming stores couldn't take reserves. But visits to Gamecrazy, Circuit City, and Best Buy netted me exactly zero copies of the game. Even the online retailers are sold out, which likely shows a shortage of product, but these other brick and mortar places never received any games in the first place. Why? Shouldn't Capcom, which is doing gamers a service everywhere by releasing this revamped game for $20 instead of spitting out a $50 cash-in, be making damn sure stores get product on day 1? And in a large enough allotment that anyone who wants the game can pick it up without going on a treasure hunt?

In reality, gaming survives by the almighty pre-order. Many game stores employ a veiled threat of not getting any extra copies in unless you plop down $5 to guarantee a copy. Even places like Best Buy and Wal-Mart are into the reserve game. You don't hear much of this in other forms of media unless it's a special exception, such as the release of a new Harry Potter book, or if you are a frequent online shopper and just want to reserve and not worry about ordering later. Many times these reserves are simply smoke and mirrors ? sure Halo 2 probably had a billion pre-orders, but even if you didn't buy the game ahead of time, every store in the world had copies stacked to the wall. Other times they are put to use in reserving niche games; yet another one of gaming's unique traits where less mainstream titles get limited prints, appealing to a smaller portion of the gaming pie. Certainly I'm not calling for the abolishment of pre-orders; they make buying games easier since you pay your money ahead of time and pick it up on the first day without any fuss. And in this day and age, having reserves for hardware is a necessary evil unless you enjoy standing in line.

What the game industry needs is their own standardized release day. Naturally Tuesday makes sense since everything else hits that day and thus you could pick up a hot new game while doing DVD and music shopping. Sure, technically gaming does have a set release day, that being Wednesday, since games usually ship to retailers on a Tuesday. However, this is only if you frequent an EB, GameStop, or Gamecrazy, generally. Stroll into Best Buy the day after a game ships, and they won't have it and usually expect it by Friday. Same goes for Wal-Mart, Target, and the like. And that's the problem. The huge majority of game purchases aren't at EB, it's Wal-Mart who lays claim to such a thing. In reality, other than console system launches, there are very, very few times when a game can be found in every store on the first day. The most recent was Halo 2, which was a borderline national event, with Midnight launches, reserves out the wazoo, and Microsoft having the brains to make sure every store had copies of the game a few days before the official release. Usually, however, unless it's a game that claims national attention, the chances of finding the game is slim unless you are a regular at EB. Gaming does have its unique challenges, such as delays when games can't be finished in time, but I've never heard of a game finishing up and then appearing on stores the next day. There's always some time to manufacture the software ? and that's where the changes need to come in.

Gamers are, for the most part, not stupid. They're usually very intelligent, aware types that know when games ship, they get all sorts of information online, and usually can't be hoodwinked by aggressive clerks who shove reserve forms in their faces whenever you ask about a future title. Their savvy (some could say nerdiness, but they're on top of their hobby) is unheralded, and that's why the industry needs to get their junk together and do this, for the better of the industry. There's no reason why Gamer A can't stroll into his local department/electronics store and pick up a copy of Metal Gear Solid 4 on the very first day, without having to haggle a salesperson to look in the back, bother with a reserve at a boutique, or run around from place to place just to find a copy. It's a relatively easy thing to do; ship games to retailers ahead of time. Games don't go gold and ship the next day ? as long as publishers, distributors, and retailers all can hang on the same page, the software should be ready to go by Monday at the latest for a Tuesday release. Retailers get movies and music well in advance, which has lead to piracy problems, but for those who don't ride around in their own ship, wear a silly hat and say YAR a lot, the convenience of finding what they want when they expect to find it is a very advantageous thing the game publishers of the world should really take grasp of.

We are headed into a new generation of gaming, where many consoles are trying many things to further penetrate other forms of entertainment, or draw in all new gamers who usually wouldn't bother with it. With this fresh start, it's about time that game publishers and non-exclusive gaming outlets escape the stone age and start getting serious about how they distribute the next-generation software, so everyone gets a chance to pick up what they want, when they expect it to be there (and this is not even getting into a need for more spaced-out releases so we're not drowning in November or snoozing in July). In this day and age, nothing is more annoying than having to hunt down something, especially a videogame that certainly isn't a matter of life or death. Movie and music fans come to expect an orgy of goodness on New Release Tuesday, and gamers damn sure should expect the same thing, no matter where they shop.

Return Fire from John

Adam says: ?Certainly I'm not calling for the abolishment of pre-orders?.

Well what do you know, I am. Adam, you make plenty of excellent points. Games do need a solid release date and it's ridiculous that publishers, distributors and stores can't get together on this. But I think the biggest piece of this problem are video game stores and their insitence on shoving pre-orders down our throat.

The last game I preordered was Contra: Shattered Soldier because I wanted a copy of that game the second it came out. When I went to pick up my pre-order I found out there were three other orders for the game and two shelf copies. Two! But I guess it's good that they even had the game.

Fast forward to last year. I go looking for Makai Kingdom at the same store. Never heard of it says the clerk. He checks his computer and finds out that, yes, the game is out, but that his store doesn't have any and may not ever have any because no one pre-ordered.

I'm aware that Makai Kingdom is as niche as they come. But if every Best Buy in the country can have five copies of Direct-To-Video Teen Sex Comedy 12 on their shelves on the designated release date a nation video game chain should be able to do the same. It's an idiotic business practice that is keeping the games from the gamers.

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