Intrigued by Summa's report on the U.K. and Ireland's biggest gaming retail chain, GAME , not stocking Friday's PS3 release of Oblivion, I decided to make a stand for my fellow countrymen and look further into the issue. While probably more likely to be a distribution issue of some sort rather than any of the excitably theorised anti-PS3 campaigns, it's incredibly strange to say the very least that a chain as big as GAME should have any such problems at all.
Determined to find an answer to this perplexing situation, I donned a battered trilby and my special detective coat and set out ...
An initial check of the comany's web site gave a very strong hint that this isn't just a localised problem of a few stores having a shortage. There was no mention of the PS3 version of Oblivion at all, the game not even making an appearance on the site's "coming soon" page. Conversely, the site belonging to GAME's biggest rival in the U.K., Gamestation, proudly splashed the PS3 edition all over its front page.
While arguably more popular with the hardcore gamer, Gamestation is still definitely the smaller of the two big guys, so this turn of events is even more puzzling. Deciding to look into it further, I headed to the 'Toidphone and, posing as a customer, started calling around.
Starting in my local north west area before heading further afield, the story was the same everywhere. After calling both chains in ten prominent cities across England, Wales and Scotland, not a single GAME store had the game in stock, while all but one Gamestation had "plenty" of copies. Asking what the problem was, I got an interesting variety of replies.
Explanations varied from the game not even having been released, to unspecified problems between the chain and the game's distributors, to just plain old not having a clue what was going on. Some stores told me they'd heard the release date had been put back to the 7th of May, some told me supply was short all over, and one mentioned that no stock had even arrived in the company's warehouses yet. The first two are clearly untrue, with one member of staff even admitting to me that the game was freely available and naming several large outlets, such as HMV, that had copies. A Gamestation employee speculated on a falling out between GAME and Ubisoft when I mentioned the problem, and while that explanation was probably just the product of guesswork, the answer to the situation is becoming ever more elusive and puzzling by the minute.
It seems that GAME are the only games outlet in the U.K. currently having this problem. The idea of the country's leader having such issues with such a high profile title while everyone else, from rival gaming chains to music shops, has no problem at all is frankly confusing in the extreme. I've called the press offices at both Ubisoft and GAME for some insight, but so far no-one has been available. As soon as any new information arises, you'll get an update.
With several GAME employees stating that not one branch in the company had the game, current in-store guesses at dates of availablity range from Tuesday to another two weeks on top of that. I hasten to add though, they are only guesses.