COMMENT: Relax, don't do it

COMMENT: Relax, don't do it
If our story proves true and retailers across the board stick to the official street date for GTA IV, then it will surely be something of a pivotal moment for the UK games trade.

I’ve written about broken street dates so many times that, sadly, I could probably do it in my sleep.

It goes something like this: rogue, non-specialist store sells random copy of a high profile title two days early; the local specialist chain store and indies follow suit; news of the early selling spreads and the street date is broken nationwide; everyone gets jolly cross about it.

The release of Halo 3 last year was the last incident of early-selling on a major title. Thankfully, it was limited to a handful of Tesco and Argos stores, with Microsoft and distributor Gem swiftly embarking on a damage-limitation exercise to avoid the problem spreading across the UK.

But even localised early-selling, after all these years, shouldn’t be happening at all. If a non-specialist such as Tesco or Argos (and the non-specialists do tend to be the guilty ones) can’t ensure that their store staff abide by release dates, maybe they shouldn’t be given stock until the day of release.

That particular threat has been levelled at the industry for years. But has it really ever happened? Maybe to a small indie, but to a chain?

If anyone has any evidence of the likes of Tesco or Woolworths ever being penalised, I’d love to hear it. Because I may be cynical, but I’d be surprised if a publisher has risked its relationship with a major customer, even if that retailer was guilty of kickstarting early selling.

But, but, but… could it be that we’ll see the UK High Street stick to the release date for the biggest release of this generation?

At the time of writing, there was a week to go to the official arrival of GTA IV and retail (and, no doubt, Rockstar and Gem) had its fingers firmly crossed for an orderly release on April 29th.

And boy, is everyone watching out for this one. The games forums were this week buzzing with consumers hopeful of hearing news of any retailer, anywhere, early selling. Even The Daily Telegraph ran a story earlier this week with the headline
‘Fears of plot leaks as GTA IV is shipped to retailers’.

All eyes are on retail right now. For once, let’s hope that the UK games trade acts responsibly.

It’s about time…

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