The digital age of video games has been with us for a while now, with both Microsoft and Sony pushing digital sales on consoles and allowing customers to pre-load their games to prepare for the launch. As a result, the culture of midnight launch events is dying away and customers are looking to get their games as soon as possible. For most hardcore franchise fans, this often includes creating a second account in the region the game will release first in and purchasing a copy there — as is the case for Dark Souls 3.
Released in Japan on March 24, Dark Souls 3 is one of this year’s most anticipated games that many US gamers are dying to get their hands on – and thanks to a few loopholes in the digital market, they were able to purchase both Japanese and English versions of the game on their consoles nearly two weeks early.
On PlayStation 4, you’ll have to create a Japanese PSN account and use Google Chrome’s auto-translate option to navigate and fill out any old address to prove residency. Afterwards, you’ll have to purchase digital PSN credit in YEN from an online store, then log into your new account on your PS4. There you’ll be able to redeem the currency code and purchase the game.
On Xbox One, you can create a new account or use your existing account and make sure your region is set to Japan. From here you’ll have to purchase Xbox Credit in YEN from the Microsoft Store, then log in to redeem the currency code and purchase the game. Once again, you’ll have to use a Japanese address to prove residency. The trick here is to swap your region back to the US before downloading the game which will allow you to download the English version of Dark Souls 3 through your Xbox One.
Shortly after both of these loopholes were revealed, Bandi Namco released a statement addressing players importing the English version of the game from Japan:
“BANDI NAMCO Entertainment America Inc. is very thankful to see so much interest for Dark Souls III on the week of its Japanese launch. We are aware that some fans in Western countries are currently able to download the international version of the game. We would like to take this opportunity to inform Dark Souls III fans that any gameplay they may experience prior to the official April 12th release date for the game will not be complete. The international version of the game currently does not have its multiplayer capabilities activated, nor does it include the contents of a planned day-one patch that will deliver further optimization of the game. Players will be able to download the day-one patch on April 12th, the official international release date for Dark Souls III.”
So with so many features missing from the experience, why bother releasing the game at all?
Japanese games being released early in their native country isn’t a new tactic, since popular games like Dark Souls and Monster Hunter always follow this trend. Typically, the Japanese release builds up the hype for the Western launch, which follows a few weeks later. But in that delay, there typically isn’t much content for Western audiences to look at while they wait. Sure, a few Japanese Twitch streams pop up and a few promotional videos are released through content creators — but there are limitations, to keep the game’s secrets hidden.
The problem with Dark Souls 3’s early launch is that these limitations seem non-existent. If you’ve spent any time on YouTube or Twitch in the past few weeks, you may think the game has already been released in the US, thanks to hundreds of YouTubers and streamers posting content about it. These pieces of content aren’t always limited in nature though, meaning that you might accidentally stumble upon the ending to Dark Souls 3 in a YouTube playlist like I did the other night.
Naturally, review copies are often accompanied by restrictions — which fall away once the game has been released to the public. It’s just a respectful way to keep everyone informed about the game in question, while making sure the experience isn’t spoiled for people who want play through the game themselves. According to Kotaku the typical limitations were, surprisingly, more relaxed than usual for Dark Souls 3 – allowing those providing coverage to freely publish information about parts of the game weeks before the release date. Naturally, this is left up to each individual or organization – most of which have refrained from providing spoilers.
With so much content about the game readily available though, loyal fans are starting to get upset about it – and rightfully so. Dark Souls has always had a reputation for being an extremely challenging franchise, forcing players to navigate tricky levels and fight against difficult bosses while learning their move patterns. As a result, the fan community tends to work together uncover the various secrets as a team and share information about their discoveries.
Thanks to the open policy Bandi Namco seems to be taking with Dark Souls 3, many fans feel like they’re having this core experience taken away from them —claiming that Bandi Namco has given VIP access to select individuals in order to promote the game. One such individual is YouTuber VaatiVidya, who has kept his coverage limited until release and addressed the situation in his most recent video on Dark Souls 3:
“I can’t wait until April 12 when everyone has this game and I can invade you guys. As of this date only press and streamers have access to the English PC version and while the current early access system is this complete mess. It’s completely screwed up that the game is out early like this, I just can’t help but cover it early. I’m sorry. Making videos is just part of the fun for me, I just can’t resist.”
This sort of promotion isn’t novel in the video game industry, though, with many early copies being sent out to YouTube personalities, Twitch streamers and press weeks before release. Sure, a game may be complete and ready to release – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a reason behind a few week delay: games take a lot of time and effort to advertise, ship and sell as well.
But in the case of Dark Souls 3, it wasn’t a promotional problem or an issue with giving specific content creators early access to the English PC version of the game. It’s the fact that because of an open loophole, players were able to purchase the Japanese release of the game but download and play the English version on their consoles here in the US.
Allowing streamers and certain content creators to play through Dark Souls 3 nearly a month before the games official release date is an issue as well, especially because it serves the purpose of actively introducing spoilers to loyal fans of the series eagerly awaiting the official release. Sure, it’s easy to tell someone to avoid the Internet for a few days in order to refrain from spoilers (as was my experience with The Force Awakens), but to take three weeks off because of Bandi Namco’s promotional campaign? That’s just a little ridiculous.
Dark Souls 3 releases on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC on April 12.