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So today, I was alerted to an issue in the gaming world by @panique – that a retailer (GameTraders) has broken street date on a title, Super Mario 3D Land to be exact, a full 6-7 days before it is set to release in Australia. Now, as most people are aware I’m sure (if not, you’ll know now), if retailers break street date (the date a game is supposed to be released) they can be fined (and possibly other punishments) by the publishers of said games.  However, this hasn’t occurred to GameTraders (as far as one can tell through research) because they import their titles direct. It’s also not the first time they have done this and I highly doubt it will be the last – while researching I found this Kotaku article from back in June when GameTraders broke street date on the Ocarina of Time remake.

So my question is this. Is it right that they (and others like them, I’m sure there are probably some out there!) can do this without reprimand when another retailer would face punishment for doing so? The whole idea of release dates and so forth, is to allow retailers to have equal opportunity by being able to sell the games on the same day. Does this go out the window when bigger retailers offer pre-order bonuses if you pre-order X game with them? Or department stores selling games at a loss?

I’m all for competitiveness in the industry and especially here in Australia, would like to see the cost of games coming down a bit (it is actually happening in some places, hurrah!)  but I think a line has to be drawn somewhere.  If it is indeed cheaper for them to import games as is suggested by the Managing Director’s comments in the Kotaku article mentioned earlier,  surely they could get the competitive edge  by lowering the prices on their titles compared to their main competitors in this industry? It is my belief that stores who do this, should receive the same punishment as other retailers would get, when breaking street dates. That is only fair.

Now, before I get accused of showing favouritism towards a particular retailer or that I am out to get GameTraders I will stipulate that while yes, I do the majority of my pre-order game purchases (which are few and far between) at EBGames AUS I am by no means tied down to one store. I’ll go where the deals are and if there was a GameTraders in my area (which there isn’t, as far as I know) I would have zero qualms with going into their store and spending some of my hard owned post-this article.

My concern in equality lay more with the gamers though. Is it fair that one guy should get a game a week(s) earlier than someone else because the store he shopped at imported games and then broke street date?  In my opinion, it is not. Of course, you could counter with “Is it really fair that retailer X can offer pre-order bonuses when retailer Y cannot?” to which I would say the following; perhaps, perhaps not. In doing so they aren’t breaking any rules and as I mentioned earlier, if you are getting the games cheaper into store, then lower the prices to reflect instead? Besides, the scope of this article doesn’t cover this particular issue.

I will also mention that I say all of this as one of those who snapped up a copy of Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Which I had pre-ordered months ago) when EBGames AUS broke the street date here.

Now that I’ve offered my own thoughts on the matter, I put it you guys to discuss and offer your own in the comments section below, whether it be on the specific case of GameTraders or breaking street dates in general. Flame on?