This all started last month at my local Wal-Mart, the only place in my small town that sells video games. A man named Ted came to the store to purchase a copy of Virtua Tennis. We struck up a conversation, reminisced about the Dreamcast, and sorted through all the reasons why that glorious system failed to catch on.
Ted is light on funds these days and can't afford any of the latest consoles, so he's strictly a PC gamer. He saw an ad for Virtua Tennis "available now for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and PC," but searching through the PC game section (shrinking, it seems, by the day) the game was nowhere to be found. A sales associate arrived to help, informing him the game was in stock for all the other platforms, but not PC. Ted left the store game-less and disappointed, but not before we exchanged phone numbers. I promised to let him know what I could find out about Virtua Tennis for the PC.
When I arrived home, I quickly discovered that Sega hadn't released the PC version yet, and no one seemed to know when it would appear. Weeks passed with no new information, but plenty of clamoring on Sega's boards for news on the PC version. Finally, on June 30, VT's Twitter feed posted: "We're pleased to confirm that the PC release date will be July 3rd. Sorry for the delay but we hope you find it worth the wait!" I called Ted, but he's lost interest now. Somebody told him it wasn't very good anyway.
Old-school types like me were excited about the release of Tales of Monkey Island yesterday, and Steam subscribers are happily plowing through the game today. But Wii owners are still waiting, despite Telltale Games' original announcement that the game would appear on both platforms simultaneously. Maybe next week, says Telltale. It's out of their hands while they wait for Nintendo.
"Nobilis and Frozenbyte are proud to announce that the fantasy action game “Trine™” (PlayStation®Network and PC) will be released in Q2 2009." I wrote about this wonderful game a few days ago after playing it on PC, and I extolled its virtues in co-op mode. Three people hunched over a shared keyboard, however, is less than ideal, so I had hoped to play the game on my PS3. That version of Trine is somewhere out on the horizon, but no one at Frozenbyte or Sony will say when we'll see it.
This happens all the time, but it needs to stop. My recent Twitter lament on the subject turned up quite a few culprits: the piracy bogeyman, publishers at the mercy of hardware makers, expensive concurrent release costs for small studios, onerous console manufacturer submission guidelines and approval delays, etc.
Regardless of the culprits, it's no way to do business. The game industry must figure out a way to overcome the madness of staggered release dates. Longtime gamers may overlook these snags because we've grown accustomed to them. But to most consumers, like my friend Ted, it makes no sense. They just want to buy the game. Too often, we make that harder than it should be.