The Dark Souls franchise is one that has a very special place in many gamers’ hearts. It walks the line between punishing and rewarding and offers up some of the best level design, gameplay, and world-building the gaming industry has to offer. So it comes as no surprise that the third installment of the beloved series is generating quite the amount of hype. However, the road leading up to the game’s release has been quite a bumpy one to say the least. The game is self published by developer From Software in Japan, but elsewhere in the world, the task of publishing has been the responsibility of Bandai Namco, and it would seem they have taken a series of missteps in the eyes of series fans.
The first thing that set some people off was the staggered release date for the game. In Japan, the fiscal year runs from April 1st to March 31st, and it would appear that From Software and Bandai Namco both wanted to release the game in different fiscal years. From opted to release their game towards the end, on March 24th, while Namco wanted the sales of the game to show a strong start for the company; and so they decided to wait for the beginning of the new fiscal year, on April 12th. A staggered release in and of itself is nothing to get upset over. Oftentimes, it takes a long time for a Japanese game to get ready for a western audience; localization and translation being the most obvious issues to contend with, and marketing and distribution matters also in need of sorting out. However, in this case, those things were already done, and when consumers found out about this, they quickly saw Namco’s business strategy as corporate greed.
Namco’s next blunder was giving certain youtubers and streamers early access to the game. Again, this isn’t necessarily something to get angry about; after all,these people have millions of fans and can act as free publicity and advertising, not to mention that they can generate a huge amount of interest in whatever it is they do. So on paper, giving these people early copies is a great idea. However, for some reason, the copies were given out a whole three weeks early. This move really upset the fan-base because it showed them that the game was ready and proved to them that the only reason they didn’t get the game yet was because of the Japanese fiscal year. Furthermore, three weeks is more than long enough to show off the entire game, and it lessens the excitement for the game in a way to know that all its secrets have already been discovered a month before it is even officially out yet. Another reason this upset some fans is the arbitrary way Namco picked people to give early copies to; some channels only having a thousand or so subscribers.Lastly, it was found that people on the Xbox One and Playstation 4 could use a trick to buy the japanese version of the game, with voice acting in english by default, and that Xbox users could then turn the japanese version into the English version, giving them early access to the game.
It should also be noted that the review embargo for this game only lifted roughly a week and a half after streamers and youtubers had been showing and commenting on the game.
These problems have angered the fan base and tarnished the reputation of Bandai Namco, and although these issues have caused less trouble in the last few days as a result of the game’s impending launch, they still serve as important lessons for Bandai Namco. Only time will tell if they have taken those lessons to heart.