The eagerly awaited sequel to the Souls series will be released on April 12th in the West, yet even before this date dedicated fans could get their hands on this game. Using either a Japanese PlayStation or Xbox account, one could wrap their punishment seeking fingers around a foreign version of the game on PlayStation 4 and even an international version on the Microsoft competitor. But with this arises a rather drastic problem, since Bandai Namco is suggesting not downloading these titles as they are “incomplete” – and the implications of such as statement are heavy and saddening in every respect.
Before one can pick apart this incompetent attempt at damage reduction, a look at the Dark Souls III marketing campaign prior to the game’s release (be it official or otherwise) seems wise. DS3 – if anything, has a very dedicated fan base around certain streamers or youtubers, with dedication bordering on obsession. Consequently, it made sense for them to use these people as a marketing device. Inviting them to special demo events and allowing these select few to show some “exclusive footage” of the game. This is not really to be frowned upon, since nobody really suffers in doing so, but it is worth noting that it is a very easy way to get people hyped up for the game. Not stupid or immoral, just easy. The fan oriented marketing continued in a similar way with slowly leaking information about the game, always spiced up with some inside jokes.
The point of revulsion was reached for me when I discovered that this somewhat slimy fan pleasing was not only part of the marketing, but also the game. (Note: I have not played the game, so I don’t know the extent of this, but what I already know is way too much). Certain characters and aspects of previous Souls Games are straight up lifted into this one. Not only does this show an extreme caution, but also an apparent lack of new ideas. But fans and especially twitch chats rejoiced at the sight of old favourites and I am not above that, but I prefer the hidden reference with a little wink, rather than a forced nostalgic flashback shoved into my face.
We continue down this path up to the last month before release – special mention goes out to IGN who have not missed a chance to spoil what can be spoiled before the release in nice Facebook posts that immediately start playing and titles more revealing than certain evening dresses. Spoilers are particularly iffy when it comes to these games. It is fine to show me gameplay changes and the general art direction, but refrain from any content beyond that. Dark Souls’ biggest strength are its boss fights, world design, and general exploration and discovery and I want to go into this game without having to say “ah, this one” or “seen that before”. So thanks IGN, but back to the topic at hand. With the possibility of playing the game earlier through the Japanese method, some streamers and youtubers made it public they would choose this route and stream the game early, since it was already released. Namco then tried to cater to fans once more and offered copies to select individuals (incidentally also those that were invited to the events before). Some accepted and some refused, wanting to play the game with everyone else. There is no judgement to be made here. If I got the chance, I would probably not refuse either, it is Namco that is to blame here. Therefore, certain people got the game early. No problem right? Now we enter the sinister territory. There are still those that used the Japanese method to get early access (with instructions available at IGN) and with no embargo on the game’s content in existence, there was nothing stopping them and now Namco stepped in, as my college already wrote right here.
There are two options here: Number one is Namco stating the truth and the game is actually in need of a patch and in its current state incomplete. However, the consequence of this being true would be that Japan is nothing short of a free beta-test group that got an unfinished product (not that this would be news-worthy in the time of Ubisoft or Capcom). The second version is a blatant lie to simply stop people from getting the game early. In which case Namco are lying to their precious fans, going so far as to say that online features are not available which is a bit hypocritical considering the seemingly infinite amount of PVP videos Youtube is determined to drown me in.
All of this boils down to a rather dark ending and a really poorly thought-out release, apparently hinging on the fact that the West would be unaware of the game being available in Japan. No matter what is the truth in regard to the game’s state, both versions are equally disgusting. Once more a big publisher showed that he knows nothing about the game’s qualities, since if he did a disaster like this would not have happened. This is all very well illustrated by the simple fact that I am offered a video titled “Dark Souls 3 Ending” a full three weeks prior to the game’s release.
As a tiny final disclaimer: All of this speaks nothing of the game’s quality and whether it will or will not live up to the hype Namco is trying to invoke. Yet, I firmly believe that such a big debacle that is covered up by equally bad excuses should not go unpunished. However, in reality in probably only increased their sales for Japanese version on top of pre-orders. But since dedicated fans are actually outraged there is hope.