Is it possible that physical gaming media might be more feasible for consumers?
I’m going to go on the record here by saying that as a consumer, I used to enjoy midnight launches of games. Jumping in the car and driving down to my local retailer to pick up the next big game like Fallout 3 or The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was a good feeling. I’d be able to grab my game and head home to pop in the disk and play for a little bit, after months of ludicrous anticipation.
As a retail employee though, I hated midnight releases. Sure, there were some fun times, like the time I organized a target practice range with a Nerf rifle to celebrate the launch of Halo: Master Chief Collection. However, running a midnight release meant being forced to stay open until at least 1:00am, and then having to open the store the next day at 9:00am. Couple that with rude customers, running out of copies (which leads to more rude customers), and generally being tired from working the entire day beforehand; and you might understand why it sucks.
Well a recent proposal by the Electronic Retailing Association might change that.
Preorder And Take It Home Today!
According to GamesIndustry.biz, the retail half of the gaming industry may be toying with the idea letting customers carry home and preload game disks prior to launch, with a few strings attached.
Digital gamers already know the benefits of preloading in today’s gaming environment. You get to install your game, along with the obligatory and massive Day One patch before the game officially releases. It means that a digital copy owner will get to play the game the moment it is unlocked. However, the same can’t be said for us physical copy connoisseurs. We have to wait for our copy to be handed to us, or hopefully be lucky enough to be the beneficiary of a shipping error that results in the game being delivered early to finally gain the ability to install our games. This often ends up being a huge pain in the ass because we sometimes must wait for hours before our game is ready to play or risk trying our luck with the game’s unpatched code.
What the ERA is supposedly proposing is to allow retailers to sell game copies in advance of the official release date, allowing their customers to enjoy the best of both worlds; they get to get their shiny disk and still be able to preload the game. Of course, that will also mean that they wouldn’t be able to play it until release anyway, thereby negating the benefit of buying a physical copy anyway.
Am I On Board With It?
Truthfully, no. The idea of being able to play my physical copy of a game as soon as possible seems alright in theory, given the way that gaming is delayed nowadays due to installation times and patches. I have a few reservations with the idea though.
First, retailers would need to rethink their policies on accepting back opened copies of games, at least prior to release. If Joe Blow buys a prerelease copy of Call of Duty: Black Ops IV and installs it on his PS4 when he gets home, but then changes his mind and tries to take it back to the store, current return policies would mean that the guy behind the counter would be forced to reject the return. Not to be mean, but if I were the guy behind the counter again, I wouldn’t honor the return unless there were some extremely extenuating circumstances to consider.
Second, there would be a requirement for the game to either be able to lock itself somehow before the release date, or have a requirement for an online connection. If the locked game is waiting for the release date to unlock itself on the device in question, it’d be as easy as just changing the date and time of the console to allow the user to play the game. The way around this would be to design the game with an online-only requirement, which would undoubtedly piss people off, especially if the game has single-player components.
Third, there would be a need for almost all publishers to be on board with the practice, otherwise there would be unnecessary confusion and vitriol about games that didn’t allow physical preloading. Imagine trying to explain why Call of Duty: Black Ops IV can be sold early, but Grand Theft Auto VI can’t. I already had a hell of a time trying to explain why I could sell some games at 12:00am EST (11:00pm CST) on the official launch day of some games, but I had to wait until 12:00am CST for others. It was never a fun practice, but it happened quite a bit, and I always ended up being on the receiving end of customer frustration because of it.
There are just so many unknowns and negatives about it that makes it difficult to think it’s a good idea. It puts such a burden on the retail stores to explain the way it would work. Forcing a under-paid retail employee to explain to a customer that they won’t be able to play the game that day, while fielding the barrage of inevitable questions, is too much for the average employee to deal with.
What do you think? Is allowing customers to take home their physical copy early a good idea, even if they can’t play it?
Header Image Credit: Dawn.com
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