Why Do Stores Sell Games Like ‘No Man’s Sky’ Early?

Fans and journalists alike are already playing Hello Games' highly anticipated sci-fi explorer.

Update 3:45 p.m. EST: in lieu of any official confirmation, Inverse has heard from an anonymous source that Sony is unlikely to distribute early access copies of No Man’s Sky to press until early Monday, due to issues regarding the game’s already-leaked copies. Original story is below.

No Man’s Sky is out next Tuesday, but many are already playing after some retailers have reportedly started selling the game early.

Big box stores like Wal-Mart and Best Buy have allegedly started selling the game to customers early as indicated by several posts within No Man Sky’s subreddit, though it’s unclear how widespread the leaks have been. Kotaku has also reported that several journalists in the area have evidently picked up copies from local shops.

The latest news comes at a crest of pre-release controversy for Hello Games’ highly anticipated sci-fi explorer following a decision by Sony not to release review copies until a pre-released patch is finished, leaving many fans feeling uneasy over the potential quality of the finished product. The uproar over No Man’s Sky began last week when a redditor confessed to paying $1300 to buy a leaked copy early over eBay and began posting videos of the game online.

Hello Games

Sony did not reply to a request for comment over whether that patch is ready or if legitimate review copies will be mailed out before the game’s launch next week. A number of major sites have chosen to break the company’s review embargo, posting first-look impressions or video coverage of the game in action after acquiring early copies.

Kotaku has started streaming the game after reporting on the quagmire over review copy distribution earlier today, while some members of the press have even suggested review guidelines shouldn’t apply for games purchased ahead of time.

(Full disclosure: just before this article went live, Inverse picked up a copy from an independent retailer in New York, though they refused to comment on how or why they were selling the game early).

As for retailers, the custom of breaking street dates for huge games from major publishers has become commonplace, with the first major breach occurring when Gamestop deliberately chose to break Modern Warefare 2’s street date in 2009, an unusual decision which came from the corporate level.

Several other major releases have been subject to recent leaks, including Uncharted 4, The Division, Metal Gear Solid V, and The Witcher III. No Man’s Sky has is also reportedly being sold early in United Arab Emirates, though breaks can — and do — happen on a global scale.

A number of fans have posted alleged proof of early copies of No Man's Sky over the past week.


Why a retailer would risk their contract with a major publisher by giving customers access to new games ahead of schedule is likely a matter of competition. When Pokémon X and Y hit stores in the UK early in October 2013, several local chains began selling the 3DS RPG ahead of its Saturday release, prompting the British electronics outfit GAME to follow suit.

Other reports regarding past breaks have suggested that for some smaller companies, offering players access may be a way to entice customers that would normally just go to a major retailer or purchase a game online. A manager at one shop selling Modern Warfare 3 early even said taking the matter up with Activision yielded an ambivalent response from the publisher.

In light of the situation, Inverse asked Gamestop what the consequences would be if one of their stores broke No Man’s Sky’s street date in the wake of other large competitors allegedly doing so. We’ll update the story if reps respond.

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