According to Sega Europe president Mike Hayes, the five key retailers for video games in the United States are ordering fewer copies of games on day one.
"In the United States you've got five customers, and those customers are saying that they don't need to order four weeks' stock, I'm going to order two. I don't want all this inventory. I think you'll find most publishers in the United States will be having similar challenges, to be honest."
This is due to the struggling economy, but I think retailers were moving this way anyway. With pre-orders rocketing to the top of the retail world, it makes sense from a business standpoint. The retailer gets to bring in some money ahead of a game's release date and gets a nice estimate of how many copies will be needed on day one.
I don't blame companies for doing this... but just once I would love to walk into a store on release day and pick up a copy of the game without having to premeditate anything. It's the reason I buy all applicable PC games on Steam, especially when retailers GameStop is de-listing games like Dawn of War II (having so much fun in the beta test, by the way!).
Also, on that note: I'm going to rant about ship dates and release dates. Won't you join me?
Games used to have a release date. A RELEASE DATE. Now we have "ship" dates. This is the day the publisher will ship the game to retailers. This usually means that no one knows when a game actually shows up. In fact, different regions of the country will get them at different times. Different retailers will get them at different times.
Some people get lucky with mailed copies... some even get them a day early. Are publishers so concerned about street dates being broken that they feel the need to punish customers by confusing the hell out of them? Are you even sure that your precious Killzone 2 will even release on FEBRUARY 27, 2009?!??!! Maybe it's more like:
KILLZONE 2 FEBRUARY 28 OR MAYBE THE 29TH (IS IT A LEAP YEAR??) BUT DEFINITELY BY MARCH 2ND!!!!!!
This is why digital distribution is awesome. It's sad that the internet in the US isn't really fast enough to support massive digital distribution, especially for Xbox 360 or PS3 games, but maybe some day. I'm still waiting on my FiOS, Verizon!
We could all talk about retailers ordering less games and how hard it is on the publishers, but that's boring economy stuff. I want to talk about ship date vs. release date. What do you think of this new trend?