Are street dates a things of the past? What can publishers do about it? Not much it seems

With the street date release dates of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries and now Fear 3 by EB Games we in Australia may be witnessing the death of street dates and a move that will force local publishers to rethink when they date their games.

Lets do a little background here first, Ocarina of Time 3Ds street date bust is a really weird one. While the game went on sale last week from Gametraders they were selling European copies imported by themselves to sell in Australia. Theres nothing at all illegal about this. However, the very next day EB Games has decided that when its stores get stock itll start selling Ocarina of Time 3D immediately. Once that happened then the flood gates opened. Sort of.

You see, even though the street date had broken none of the others stores including EB put the game up for sale. You had to ask them (and other retailers for it). If you read our site or Kotaku youd know that this was the case. Usually this doesnt happen, once a games release date is busted thats it.

Now just this week weve got another two release date breaks by EB Games, first up yesterday Resident Evil: The Mercenaries broke release by four days, not as long out as Ocarina of Timess but still a break none the less. Today other retailers have begun selling it as usual, not hidden away like Ocarina of Time. Now today (Tuesday the 28th) EB Games have announced via their Twitter that the F3AR (or Fear 3 for the English literate) has now broken street date.

Thats now three games in row, not all of them are big games (Mercenaries) so whats the deal? Why are they doing this? Lets take a look at that.

It appears that EB is selling games as soon as other retailers start selling imports. For the sake of this story lets call this other retailer, G Traders. No thats too obvious. Game T. Thatll do. Both Resident Evil: The Mercenaries and Fear 3 are in stock at their stores, Fear 3 would have to be a UK import. The game came out in the UK last Friday, more than enough time for it to get here - just like Ocarina did a week earlier.

So with EB selling these games (Australian stock, not imports), what can publishers do? They cant do anything about Gametraders really if theyre going to import all of their stock. Parallel import isnt illegal for video games in Australia (unlike books) so theyre not breaking any laws.

What can they do about EB? Nothing either really. EB Games is now that big that short of holding stock back to EB as late as possible EB can continue to break release dates as it sees fit. Publishers wouldnt blacklist EB because of the total gaming market they sell to, theyre too big for their own good. Is EB getting too big for its own good? We say yes.

Does this mean that now street dates are dead in Australia? In some ways yes, if theres a lag time between the UK (or US for region free consoles) Gametraders and other smaller retailers are going to use the high Australia dollar to their advantage, they dont need local publishers.

Street dates do exist for a couple of good reasons, if you want to pick up a game and the release date is a certain date. With a street date you can be sure that a store will have a copy by then and not have it sold out already. It also allows small independent game stores to get their stock. They dont have the big distribution methods that EB Games and the department stores have. Street dates allow for an even playing field. We just dont want street dates that allow publishers or retailers to sit on a game for weeks.

So the only thing left for publishers to do is make sure we in Australia get games the same week as Europe or even America (this obviously wont matter to Nintendo with the Wii and 3DS though). However then we still have the price difference, which is another problem all together.

Just dont expect to see GTA V or the next Halo game to have its street date broken, they have worldwide release dates and that means theres no street date to be broken.

EB better watch itself though, they could have exclusive collectors editions taken away from them. Worse though, they have that big shiny EB Expo coming up.

Image credit: DarthHomer and buckE182