For many gamers, the release of Dark Souls 3 is one of the year's most momentous occasions. Said to be the final release in the widely acclaimed Souls franchise, it's a huge release by award-winning developer FromSoftware that has the potential to be a game of the year contender.
Although impressions leading up to Dark Souls 3's release have been remarkably positive, publisher Bandai Namco's handling of its launch has left a bad taste in the mouth of many gamers.
It all began with the planning of Dark Souls 3's launch. Instead of positioning the game for a worldwide release in March, it chose to give Japanese players a three week head-start. While this is something that veteran fans of the franchise are no stranger to, since Dark Souls and Demon's Souls both came out in Japan first, the favoritism has led to spoiling of some of the game's greatest surprises.
The staggered launch has compromised the enigmatic nature of the game. One of the Souls series' greatest strengths is its sense of adventure, which makes little to no effort to guide players in its large, dangerous worlds. It's a quality that is seldom encountered in the modern era, and leads to an experience that encourages expedition, risk taking, and thoughtful planning.
Dark Souls 3's release in Japan on March 24th has prompted a flood of information about the game to hit the internet. A surplus of build information, walkthroughs, and tips have left western gamers feeling like they're left out of the initial exploration of uncharted territory. Although this information can be safely avoided, details regarding the ending of the game, notable encounters, and the game's best kept secrets are already being tossed around, spoiling the game and upsetting many fans in the process.
The Japanese-first release was assumed to be due to localization, but that's not the case. Xbox One gamers have been able to obtain a copy early by taking advantage of the system's region-free store. What has surprised many is that translation of the game's text and audio to English is already complete. Consequently, Xbox One gamers have been, mistakenly, let in on the thee week head-start, leaving PC and PS4 gamers to wait.
Following this series of events, fans have been outspoken about their disappointment. Instead of directly addressing the issue, Bandai Namco has provided early copies to Twitch streamers and YouTube personalities in an effort to market the game in North America and Europe. Judging by the reaction of many fans, it has done just the opposite.
While footage has been available on YouTube and Twitch, game reviewers have been provided a copy of the game along with an NDA disallowing any reviews until a specified date. These reviewers will have to keep their mouth shut for the time being, while Xbox One players are already deep into the adventure, and in some cases sharing their thoughts on the game without an NDA. In other words, it isn't just the average RPG gamer who is upset about the handling of Dark Souls 3's launch, as even press are dissatisfied.
Impressions from those who have already gotten their hands on the full version of Dark Souls 3 have had mostly positive things to say about the game, so there's no reason to believe that the game won't perform well. However, the launch has upset a significant number of FromSoftware fans. In an information dominated world, it's the last thing that a smaller publisher like Bandai Namco should hope to associate themselves with, but judging by its lack of action during the past four days, it might just not care.