OPINION: Street date crisis says it all about retail’s future

Worrying about broken street dates might seem like a very Old World problem to many.

But ‘tiny‘ issues like this matter more and more as games retail fights for a bigger part to play in the release of big titles.

These days anyone can launch a game, but it’s not easy converting that release into legitimate success (measured however you want – sales, revenue, users, ‘reach‘, etc).

That‘s where video games retail comes in, whether it‘s a stop-off during a mum‘s Saturday shopping trip, a hangout for kids and a new place to showcase digital titles. Or, for the more jargon-minded, the final destination after a customer‘s been ‘activated‘ and gone through a ‘purchase decision journey‘.

When everything‘s working in the right order we know that a simple release date becomes a ‘moment‘. It‘s not a particularly genuine or epoch-making turning point, but a release date is a designed event. It‘s theatre to celebrate a game‘s arrival.

In its transformation, GAME has rightly seized these moments to underline its deep pockets of customers in the games community.

But break that process and all that preparation is undermined.

Last week GAME was in the awkward position of having to follow its peers and offer Pokmon early, texting pre-ordering consumers their games were available hours early but that, er, the midnight launches were still going ahead.

It‘s not just undermining GAME‘s work, but the future of its peers too.

Sure, no one was harmed in the end. Pokmon still came out, and it‘s not like early release dates stop people buying games en masse.

But ask yourself: what happens when it comes to planning the next game? How many times will publishers excuse those who went early before they test exclusive launches through retailers that will abide to a release date?

Such a process, accompanied by a digital launch that totally cuts the street breakers out of the equation, is great for those on the inside track but a disaster for those who effectively cut themselves out for a short term gain.

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