If I hide over here, the spoilers can't get me! A Japanese game like Dark Souls 3 being released a few weeks early in its native country isn't usually a big deal. But if you've looked at YouTube or Twitch, you might think Dark Souls 3 is already out in the US; there are streams of the game everywhere, and it's rubbing some fans the wrong way.
In addition to being a kick arse action series, the Souls games are puzzle boxes. One of the great thrills is opening up a new Souls game and collectively discovering what's inside. One person finds this, another person finds that. Everyone trades a tiny piece of information, as the game unravels itself. One of my favourite moments last year was texting back and forth with Kirk Hamilton, as each of us progressed through Bloodborne. It's one of the many things that makes Souls games unique, and fans worry that's being robbed by an attempt to turn up marketing for Dark Souls 3.
I was surprised when a code for the PC version of Dark Souls 3 showed up in my inbox a few days ago. It hadn't crossed my mind to even ask Bandai Namco for a review copy of the game yet; the game was a few weeks out. What surprised me even more was how relaxed the publisher's approach to coverage was going to be, allowing writers and streamers to freely publish information about (parts of) the game well before its April 12 release date.
In other words, the game is done...it's just not out yet.
If you were hungry for new Dark Souls 3 details, yesterday was a feast. If you're on a media blackout for it, was a nightmare. And if you're someone who just wants to play the game, was a terrible tease.
On paper, it makes sense. With Dark Souls 3 out in Japan, there's going to be a ton of new information coming from fans who are diving into the game, regardless of whether or not they speak the language. Rather than pretend it's not happening, Bandai Namco decided to let those in the media and selected streamers on YouTube and Twitch to start publicly playing early.
Three weeks of free advertising leading up to the release? You can see why a company might be into that, but it's rubbed some of the most passionate fans the wrong way. If the game is done, why not release it right now?
#FreeDarkSouls3 is one of the (largely unsuccessful) hashtags have have cropped up, as people try to lobby Bandai Namco to move up the release.
"Early vip access is advertising," said one user. "But 3 weeks early access of a finished game is punishment for not being vip.
"@BandaiNamcoUS This DS3 release is the worst," wrote another. "Localised Xbox versions, early copies for streamers. This is bullshit"
It's not gonna happen, though. Dark Souls 3 will be released on April 12, as Bandai Namco wants to deliver the biggest possible splash on a single day.
There are lots of reasons why games aren't released the moment they're finished. There are advertising, retail, and other financial considerations. Uncharted 4 was technically finished last week, but it's not coming out until May 10. Sony could, in theory, upload the game to PlayStation Network tomorrow and let us play. Where's #FreeUncharted4?
Of course, that's one place where I'm sympathetic to the Dark Souls 3 fans; thanks a region loophole, players were able to purchase Dark Souls 3 through Xbox One's Japanese store...but download and play the US version.
One of the biggest Souls fans on YouTube, EpicNameBro, is trying his best to avoiding anything about Dark Souls 3 until its release date.
If Bandai Namco made a miscalculation, it was letting people stream three weeks early. That's nearly a month in advance of the game's proper release date, and it's irritating to have something you want dangled in your face.