Why I'm glad the US gets games first

Opinion: Tom Pakinkis is quite happy to be second on the scene...

Movies, hit TV shows, black heads of state. It seems like America gets everything before we do.

It's a fact made all the more galling by the hyper-connected world that we live in: our allied buddies are now only a click away from being all up in our grills with their 'Season 4 Finale' threads and 'OMG I can't believe he's dead! :-O' comment posts.

What's that UK? You're still spluttering through the first season? Oh, well... He dies.

But, while we spend our days trying not to stumble across spoilerific YouTube comments about movie and TV favourites, when it comes to video games, there's something to be said for coming second in the global release schedule.

Don't get me wrong, there are more than a few reasons why it annoys me to step up to the metaphorical canteen after three days of queuing behind the yanks and gingerly lift my bowl to the ladle, only to find that the once hottest dish on the menu is now decidedly tepid.

The spoiler problem is up there with worst of them. I saw the cake on the way in and I heard someone exclaim about the surprise blob of chocolate nestled in the middle. "It was amazing," she enthused, "Because I totally wasn't expecting it!"


If I could drag this increasingly unwieldy culinary analogy back to video-games; no-one should have to avoid the internet for three days just to come to a game with the same experience enhancing ignorance as developers intended.

And so we reach that classic question: why can't international publishing houses put out a game on the same day internationally? Some manage it, after all - and everyone had a wonderful time lining up last November in the cold waiting for Black Ops together...

It's an important idea for reasons other than spoilers, too - especially in today's FPS market, where time is a very valuable currency thanks to its strong exchange rate with XP.

There we are with our brand new copy of Military Shooter: Contemporary Conflict 2, ready to delve into a bit of multiplayer. Oh, and there stand our American friends, already seventeen feet tall with all manner of icons and badges floating next to their name.

Their guns are bigger than ours, they have more of them, they have 14 different types of grenade being dragged around by a caddy and lasers coming out of their knuckles. We fire a few shots from our level one potato gun but "Brad41USAUSA" just catches the chunks of spud in his mouth and struggles to spell 'owned'.

And that's it; we're on the back foot until Contemporary Conflict 3. The difference? Three or four days tops. In the world of 24 hour XP grabbing competition, that's a long time friend.

"But Tom," I assume you cry, "This is all doom and gloom, you said there was a sweet side to this so far bruised peach." That I did, old timer - and it's all about your state of mind.


Try not to think of Uncle Sam as getting first dibs on the Bazooka; try instead to see him as a guinea pig. Think of him as a robot that we roll into a game world with the task of testing how sturdy the floor is... because, these days, it seems that more and more the floor's going to give way at the first hint of a shoe.

Recently, there have been complaints about Brink being decidedly dodgy upon release and, going a bit further back, I don't need to remind you why Fallout: New Vegas needed a plaster or two.

Because games are so big this days, so complicated, so connected, the period directly after release is more like the final stages of development. Studios just can't be 100 percent sure how their final build will cope when it comes to the crunch.

We want games to still feel hot when they reach our cold cold hands, but take L.A Noire - a game so hot, it's started warming up the insides of US consoles. Shortly after UK-ers reach the table today, we wouldn't be surprised to see Rockstar's 1940s thriller get patched, satisfyingly warm and console-friendly.

It all reminds me of something my dad told me when I was a boy, "He who rides at the front of the Tandem, swallows the most flies."

If we'd have had a global release for LA Noire, you might not be sniffing clues and solving crimes right now, you could be scrolling down reams of instructions on the pages of Rockstar technical support.

Then again, with both Rockstar and Sony denying culpability for any re-heating problem, a little interrogation might just come in useful.