Generally speaking, video game retailers receive stock of upcoming titles about a week before the official release. Sometimes – more often with independent retailers than large chains (as they usually have contacts with company representatives) – these street dates get broken and stores allow customers to purchase titles before their set dates.
Without naming specific stores, I’ve come across an obscene number of retailers – more so than perhaps any other title in the past – who have publicly tweeted that they’re selling Pokémon X & Y earlier than its set date on Saturday, 12th October. Some have been selling it all week, some have been selling it a day early; whilst the average gamer may thank their lucky stars in the short-term, in the long-term this could be quite damaging for both consumer and retailers alike.
Of course, the first issue here is fairness. Game retailers that have kept to the legitimate release date now are at risk of pushing away customers as other local or online retailers gleefully break street dates. Gamers will feel cheated in that people that know from another town will have been allowed to buy the game early, yet they cannot. It’s a matter of fairness.
This is Nintendo’s first ever worldwide release and it looks like heads are already rolling at Nintendo. With the complete mess that this launch has been, don’t expect Nintendo to make the effort to handle worldwide releases in future. This means countries like the EU will continue to get games months after other countries do. Thank your local street date-breaking retailer for that.
Especially in the case of certain stores releasing the game a week early, this does of course cause a general security issue for Nintendo. A week is a long time and early buyers will have had the unique opportunity of seeing the currently unrevealed full Pokédex, the game’s story, etc. Companies like to release information on their games at their own pace for a reason, so I can’t imagine Nintendo are overjoyed at this.
Breaking street dates is rarely illegal (unless a contract has been signed), but it is against company agreements and is usually faced with a consequence. In this case, Nintendo has promised that any retailer found to be breaking the street date will be penalised – likely in the usual punishment form of the stores no longer receiving future titles before the launch date. This means the store will not have enough time to set the games up when delivery arrived on launch day, meaning that they’ll have to rush about to set things up at the last minute, be unable to participate in midnight launches and, in all likelihood, be unable to display/supply the game for most of the day at launch.
Of course, companies have the right to terminate supply altogether to that store, which is a slightly more daunting thought.
Release dates are set for a reason and in breaking them to this degree is to create a bloody mess. It’s really no wonder that Grand Theft Auto V had such a strict and secure release, with retailers only receiving the title the tail-end of the day before launch. I have word from specific retailers that Nintendo have given permission to break street date if others do, but have yet to have the legitimacy of that confirmed.
In any case, enjoy your early copies of the game – those of you lucky enough to have a retailer happy to break street dates, that is.
(Update: We’ve since been able to confirm that, due to mass street date breaks, all GAME and Asda retailers have seemingly been allowed to sell the game from today. Other retailers have yet to be granted permission.)