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Frustration

It’s happened again. It always happens.

I am a man of simple tastes. I enjoy Halo 3, Assassin’s Creed, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. There are several independent titles that I love, and I’m a consistent purchaser of XBLA titles. However, my main horde of games is filled with AAA titles, not unlike the standard mainstream gamer.

Australia isn’t a backward nation in terms of gaming by any stretch of the imagination. We are no United States or Japan, but we have more than proven ourselves through our dedication to construct a strong foundation for the future market of Australian game development. Companies such as Krome Studios, Creative Assembly, and Transmission Games have helped put Australia on the map as a reliable – if not remarkable – hub for regional development. Not to mention our global offices, including Electronic Arts, THQ, and 2K – Bioshock, anyone?

So, why then must we be condemned to miss title after title due to companies pushing back Australian release dates? It’s not as if other countries are being denied the game for the sake of quality assurance or viral problems. No, it is a simple case of that’s the way it has always been, and companies don’t really give a damn if a small community of gamers constantly miss out.

Case in point: Section 8. TimeGate Studio’s FPS had initially been slated for a global release date of September 1. Of course, I wasn’t so foolish as to believe that this would be the case down the track for an Australian release, and surprise surprise, a couple of months later, the Aussie date had been pushed back to September 8. No problem, I could handle that. I mean, in the United Kingdom they had to wait until September 11; a week after the US release date wasn’t so bad.

Games!

Then, two weeks ago (a few days after the US release), I called some of my local electronics stores to check whether Section 8 was still anticipating a September 8 release. The attendant informed me that the game had, in fact, been moved back to September 17. This was frustrating, but by no means the worst I had experienced.

Fast forward to Wednesday the 16th of September. I’m driving around to EB Games, JB Hi-Fi, and Game, to personally ask what date Section 8 will be available. The reason? Every single online store I checked had a conflicting opinion on the subject. EB Games stated a September 24 release; Game believed it would be September 17; and JB Hi-Fi was all at sea with an expected release sometime around October. Ridiculous.

After an hour of power walking through shopping centres, flipping off Fitness First salesmen, and elbowing elderly folk who happened to stumble into my path, I discovered that, yet again, Section 8 had been delayed. This time, until September 24. Oh, but silly me, I shouldn’t worry! “The release date is official!” declared the girl in the G-Force promotional t-shirt.

Silly me, indeed.

Lines

I return to work, still with a little bit of time left in my lunch break. I start browsing through the upcoming 2009 release dates for Xbox 360 titles in Australia. The King of Fighters XII: September 24 – already released worldwide. Mini Ninjas: September 24 – already released worldwide. I’m beginning to see a pattern here.

As I scroll down the list for October, November, and December, I come across title after title that is slated for release several weeks after it becomes available in North America and Europe. WET, Alpha Protocol, Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, Borderlands, and Ghostbusters, just to name a few.

Now I entirely understand the argument that Australia is only a nation of 20 million citizens, with a small percentage of that being classified as regular gamers. However, the fact of the matter is that by delaying the release dates, the companies are ultimately losing credibility, if not money. I doubt very much that multiplayer in Section 8 is going to be as incredibly fun for me as it was for the American and European audiences who received their copies about three weeks prior.

I understand that Australia is still a small market on the world stage of gaming. I can even deal with the fact that we will never have the swift release dates of the USA. But what I just can’t let go is the fact that gaming companies continuously push back titles for Australian gamers without any reason at all.

Give me a bad excuse, I don’t care; just give us the satisfaction of acknowledging our existence; just let us know that you understand there are a lot of gamers down here who are incredibly excited about your upcoming titles, and we want to play them, just like everyone else.

But don’t give us hope just so you can take it away again.

  1. Thus far my game isn’t banned in Australia. I don’t know why. I guess sexualization is okay, but murder isn’t.

  2. I wouldn’t worry about a month, Simon, what about the elusive Rock Band 2? Flagship title, approved for Australian release, MTV just never bothered. Now THERE is just plain laziness on a publisher’s part! :P

    • avatar Walquiria

      An additional note for those of you who might be fiatexd on my 9 original hit limit estimate. There isn’t really a magic number, in XBLA or any other ecosystem. Technically, if every developer and publisher decided to focus entirely on original IP, and if many of them did a good job of developing and marketing the aforementioned original IP, you would most likely see much more than 9 hits. But, as 3rd party publishers continue to take XBLA more seriously, odds are that they’ll put more and more effort into established properties like Battlefield and Street Fighter not original IP. Development and marketing budgets will continue to rise. This will increase the already significant pressure on indies to find ways of standing out. Consequently, I would argue that 9 is, in fact, a rather *optimistic* number.

  3. This is, unfortunately, what we have to settle for as Australians.

    In this day and age, our exchange rates also allow the Americans to pay games for a cheaper price. Sigh. We fail.

  4. @Matty W

    Thanks for that info, more fuel to the flames!

  5. It is a joke that, in this day and age of internet connectivity and world-wide release dates, these things are still ‘the norm’. From what I can remember, wasn’t the Dreamcast equally uncatered for in the land Down Under? Ten years and an entire generation of consoles later, and we’ve gone so far only to end up stuck in the same place.

    • avatar Haiane

      Very good article!I would sfilepicacly mention do not force people to stare at the upsell screen for a whole minute . Many times I found myself at the end of a demo and want to play it again but discover that I’m unable to skip the upsell message at the end. Even worse: many times the demo will kick you back to the dashboard, forcing you to load it again from the beginning.Both those thing seem especially stupid. First, in Xbox 360 you can always hit the Guide button and quit to the dash board yourself. Second, why would a publisher try to stop me from playing the demo again? If they don’t want me to play it why make a demo at all?I have more than once abandoned the idea of playing a demo a second time (and definitely abandoned the idea of buying the game) because of this. Even with some games that seemed interesting.

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  8. avatar Magdy

    A far more significant briraer than any of the ones you mention is actually getting a tail full of content on XBLA in the first place. Microsoft is acting as a distributor with XBLA in an ideal world it would carry EVERY game, which means making adding a new game to the service virtually free. This works through Amazon.com with Marketplace. It kinda sorta works on iTunes with the aggregators that bundle lots of smaller acts together to get them on the service. It\’s a very long way from working on XBLA because of the certification step required of all XBLA games. That\’s a very human intensive process that scales ok to hundreds of games, but is doomed when the first hundred thousand XNA games hit it.It seems like requiring a purchase before allowing a rating is a fine idea. Even better is the sort of \

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