Video Games Don't Break Street Date In Australia Any More

The jury was always out on whether street breaks were a good or bad thing, but one thing is for certain -- they pretty much don't happen any more.

The street break: that moment when an anticipated video game sells early, before the official release date. Back in 2011, those halcyon days, there was an epidemic. A week barely went by without a major release breaking street date in Australia.

It culminated, for me, with Battlefield 3. It's hard to imagine now, as Battlefield has slowly lost relevance, but in October 2011 there was no bigger game. Whisper the word 'Battlefield' and there was a stampede.

I still remember the day before release.

I remember clicking on the social media pages of EB Games, JB Hi-Fi and GAME. I remember the slow burn shitstorm.

"ARE YOU GUYS SELLING BATTLEFIELD 3? I HEARD THAT TARGET/KMART/BIG W IS SELLING IT."

The hysteria: it filtered down to my twitter feed and my inbox. I would get faked receipts sent to my inbox. "SEE! SEE! THIS PERSON BOUGHT BATTLEFIELD AT BIG W IN CHATSWOOD. STREET BREAK!"

Some would come in the form of literal pleading.

"Can you post this receipt and pressure EB Games into breaking street date? PLEASE?"

People would seriously ask me this.

And the strange thing: I kinda miss it. The energy of it. Like the moment before a sprint, waiting for the gun to go off. That tension, it was palpable. There were so many factors at play. From my perspective, I wanted to break news that a game had broken street date. There was value in that for readers and those stories always did insane amounts of traffic. But I also wanted to be right. When was it okay to report that a game had broken street date? Was it when the first copy was sold at Target? Nah. Was it when EB Games started sending texts to pre-order customers? Yeah, maybe. Was it when GAME posted that the game had broken street date on their Facebook page? By then it was probably too late!

It was a day where literally everyone had their finger on the trigger. It was like a video game arms race. A cold war. A Cuban missile crisis. On the one side you had EB Games, the other GAME. Who would break first? Sweat dribbling on the forehead of these two specialist retail giants.

"A Kmart in Parramatta Westfield sold it? Maybe it's okay for us to go!"

"NO HUMBLE SALES ASSISTANT... WE WAIT."

Both EB Games and GAME had that defence: neither would go without the permission of the publisher. But money was at stake here. If GAME was selling and EB Games wasn't, that was a lost sale to your direct competitor. That tension. Do right by your suppliers? Lose money? The dilemma! Publishers technically had the right to punish retailers for breaking a street date, but how could they really prove it? And what publisher was really brave enough to bit the hand that feeds? Publishers need retail to sell boxed products.

It really was crazy there for a while.

It was a tension driven by competition. It's hardly a coincidence that, once GAME left, street breaks slowed to a crawl. GAME wasn't to blame, neither was EB Games. The street break was a reflection of that direct competition, that need to be first. That need to win. Once GAME left EB really had little reason to ever break a street date. Target sold early? Big deal. One copy sold as a loss leader at a Mom & Pop store was hardly going to affect the bottom line. Relationships with publisher are not to be trifled with. The stakes were lower all of a sudden. The need to take that risk was subverted.

The end result: video games don't break street date anymore. It's probably a good thing for everyone -- for consumers, retailers, publishers -- but it's also kinda boring.

Yesterday, the day before Metal Gear Solid V's release date I got a tweet from a friend. It said: "send me a txt if Metal Gear breaks street date." It was a joke. I chuckled. But a part of me was like, wouldn't that be fun? One last time? A street break.

For old time's sake?


Comments

    Well that's what you get for supporting a future of digital only games!

    I worked at a CBD JB around when they were common, I miss that excitement too but I'm not sure Game going under is what stopped it.

    At Watch Dogs release I felt some nostalgia and went around seeing if I could manage a break. I actually had two sales staff tell me they could and got all the way to the counter with it...

    Locked out sale.

    The non specialty stores have obviously had so many issues with these embargoes that their POS systems have a built in hard prevention to account for human error.

    I'd argue that had a larger impact, though I can see how without that direct tension even that trigger would be harder to set off now.

    mark street dates are still breaking its just a differant market now.

    EB pretty much have a monopoly, jb being their nearest competition but they are now trying to focus on white goods (bad move).

    EB are notorious for dobbing the competition in and shoving them under the bus, when game were around they were notorious for letting a game slip out early and then blaming game, even going so far here in adelaide where a manager from the city shop went to the game shop in the city with a receipt making it look like the city eb shop had sold a copy early, bought a copy of a game not due out til the next day from game who feared they'd loose sales figure street date already broken, then posted the game receipt to ozbargain.

    Everytime eb would get caught they'd pass the blame or blame a staff member and avoid penalty or blame kmart, who've now decided screw games so they cant use that one anymore.

    There have actually been several games that have broken street date this year, latest being disney infinity 3.0, you can buy on gumtree from numerous sellers in west sydney and one in adelaide, it's not out til friday I believe.

    You ask EB and they deny the hell out of this, ask the publisher they deny it, yet trophies for it are showing up on psn from australia and there has been a link to a toys r us in melbourne thats already sold it.

    EB are happy to sit back with their exclusive pack on it they're charging more for and waid in on their pre-orders.

      Stores are stopping breaking street dates, because they are being punished/fined for it. EB would be dobbing people in because if they don't fidn out soon enough, they lose a whole lot of sales, as I'm sure any other game store would do. Plus, I certainly wouldn't want to be to blame if it was me or my store (hypothetically) that broke the street date, knowing the fines that they get, so its only logical that they would try and pass the blame if they can, its human nature :P I farted last night and blamed it on the dog, we all do it! ;) I know the old manager at my local GAME store used to do it all the time, he hated broken street dates with a passion

      I'm not suprised we don't see them anymore though, stores are getting smarter about how they release games, and are probably tired of being fined for breaking street dates

      Disney Infinity 3.0 has been on sale at my local Big W since yesterday arvo.

        Yeah I bought it at EB today. It well and truly has broken it's street date.

    Movies still constantly do it, for example I picked up Mad Max yesterday which doesn't technically come out until tomorrow.

      Yeah, I got the Mad Max Bluray from Big W on Sunday.

      Movies aren't under strict embargoes and are usually released the Monday before their date. There's no penalty for selling them before their date, unless it's a huge release that specifies it.

    The last major street date break I got excited for was Skyrim. A friend and I went and got our copies - his on PS3, mine on PC.

    So I got to watch him play while I waited for it to unlock on Steam...

    They happen, just not for big time, AAA games any more, the last thing that broke date, that I can remember was, Lords of the Fallen (exciting I know) which was out a day early, other then that I think Batman AC was the last big release that broke street.

    I don't really miss it I love the fact I can now play games at 01 aest. Means that whilst my friends are waiting for bricks and mortar to open I got to start playing mgs 5 at 2am admittedly there was no online functions on but I was still having fun

    Working in Games at JB I have experienced all manner of ploys to get me to break street date, including: forged receipts, begging/nagging, cash bribes and offers of sexual favours. JB takes street dates so seriously these days, that if any staff are found to have done it without permission, they may be fired on the spot.

      Sexual favours - really? That's a level of fandom I never knew existed...

        what can I say, the dude really wanted call of duty early. As soon as I said no, he went across the hall to EB Games and gave the staff there the same offer.

          Hope he didn't open with that offer. Maybe he wasn't even after COD.

    The way Mark describes the petering out of street date breakages sounds eerily like how the policy of nuclear deterrence ultimately de-escalated the Cold War. Everyone's finger on the button, losing hair over whether to act on rumors of a rival making a move, then collectively realising it would only result in mutually assured loss.

    I can only see that because of a certain Hideo Kojima game that used nuclear deterrence as a major recurring theme. You're a clever bugger, Mark; either that or he's a Patriot.

    Last edited 01/09/15 12:55 pm

    I got close on the weekend actually, Big W had all their copies of the game on the shelves on Saturday morning.

    Picked one up and took it to the counter, the sales assistant despite having trouble finding the game in the draw, got all the fillings, packed them into the box, sealed the box with their Big W sticker and scanned it into the register.

    At that point the system I assumed told them it wasn't able to be sold, as they then double checked the catalogue that was near by and re-confirmed it couldn't be sold to 1st Sept. After that, the sales assistance went back to the shelves and removed all the cases.

    So, is the reason why most dates don't break now because stores systems are locked out from selling something if a date is put in? As in, the register won't recognise the product and/or won't process because something has been entered that conflicts the attempted purchase?

    Not sure whats the point of getting to play a multiplayer game (Battlefield) that relies, if not, is advertised about how many people can play at the same time, before anyone else. "Yay! "Waiting for other players" has never looked more next gen!"

    Dude, JB has been in home appliances and whitegoods since 2011.

    They'll always sell games, movies and music. ALWAYS.

    I am almost certain I was a "please tweet this so EB breaks street date" person. Its hard to say, I was in a dark place filled with Portals, Skyrims and Dark Souls.

    Last street date break was the last Mortal Kombat :)

    I remember the Battlefield 3 street date break.

    There was supposed to be a midnight launch party, with all the usual trappings. Live demo, competitions, food... There'd been some build-up to it for a while, and I had some time off so I figured what the hell, I'll go along.

    When I got there, the place was empty and there were a bunch of bored, deflated-looking EB staff (who I have since realized probably weren't getting paid for this), no particular decoration or signs of celebration. Just a couple kids sitting at a counter to hand out copies.

    I asked what the deal was, and they told me, "It broke street date. We've been selling it and giving out the preorders all day, so hardly anyone's coming to the midnight thing, but we had to do it anyway because we said we'd be here. Kinda ruined the night. Soooooo... here you go. Enjoy."

    I felt bad for them.

    well there was big break with the witcher over in the middle east and i also heard that the new mad max games broke early overseas for console

    People who think a simple "I saw K-Mart selling it." lie will get any store to break embargo are dreaming. 99.99% of stores and staff know better.

    I worked at GAME the day Battlefield 3 broke street date. Naturally, it threw our midnight launch plans into complete chaos. I remember distinctly our area manager requesting that we stay open from 5:30 closing time right through until midnight just in case anybody wandered by. Of course, this was 6.5 hours of work that we wouldn't be paid for as the company didn't have the budget for it.

    I went round asking about Madden 16 last week. All of my local stores had it. All of them knew it was embargoed. It's just no fun anymore.

    These days I'm happy to wait till Steam, MS or Sony unlock it. Or which ever seperate publisher releases the game. If I still played Ninty games I'd be happy to wait for them. I really like not having to buy a physical copy of games any more.

    Ive managed to get copies of Assassins Creed Unity and more recent Batman Arkham Knight 3 days early.

    Hmmmm.
    In my 5 years in games retail I can only think of maybe 2 or 3 occasions when this happened. But it was long before the 2011 'epidemic'. Most of the time we didn't even get the game in store until the morning of the release! People would try to convince you to go out the back and get them one but we didn't even have them! I remember Metal Gear Solid 3 arrived the day before, and I got to take my copy home that night for the low low staff discount price of $109.95 (it retailed for $119!)

    I forget what game it was, but I answered the phone once and it was an angry person who started abusing me for our store breaking the street date, never mind asking for the manager or even figuring out who the hell I was. In the middle of the rant I was able to break in:

    "Wait wait wait, which game did you say?"
    "very-important-game-title"
    "Um, that's not possible, we didn't actually get our stock until this morning."
    "What?"
    "It didn't even arrive until 9:30, we had to turn away people that arrived a 9 to pick the game up."
    .... ....
    "Is this Video Games World?"
    "No, this is Video Games Heaven."
    "Oh... never mind!" *click*

    Last edited 01/09/15 8:42 pm

    Not sure it really counts, but I bought a Star Wars: Force Awakens shirt 2 or so weeks before Big W were allowed to sell them - http://imgur.com/SRQNybw (check my upload date!).

    I know they weren't meant to be, because I went back a few days later & the shirts were gone... followed by this sign going up a couple of days back: http://i.imgur.com/pwMwYHR.jpg

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