For me, the release of any major game is marked by this strange period of limbo. VideoGame Limbo. Because I'm an English ex-pat living in Germany, I order all of my games from Amazon.co.uk. This is fine when purchasing a game that's been around for a little while, but on a day like today, the major weakness Amazon has over physical, real-life shops is made painfully clear.
At almost midnight last night, an Amazon worker lovingly wrapped my copy of Fallout 3 in that well-known Amazon cradboard game box, slapped on the sticker and shipped it out. I felt a little thrill, as the estimated dispatch date was the 30th, and that Amazon worker had managed to ship it a day early (or 23 minutes early if you want to nit-pick). But it doesn't arrive until tomorrow.
I know it's out there, floating around various European postal services. To their credit, Amazon seem to have a very harmonious relationship with the British and German postal services. Apart from a cock-up leaving me in agony for almost two weeks waiting for Oblivion, deliveries have always met or exceeed my expectations.
But still nothing can beat getting up early, walking into the shop just after it opens and playing the game a half hour later. When it comes to waiting for a game pre-release, I have endless patience. I'd rather developers take their time to develop a well-rounded game that's as bug-free as possible (but to be fair, I do appreciate realistic release dates to accompany such thorough development). However, I suddenly turn into one of those snotty little kids on christmas eve as soon as the game leaves the warehouse, ever close to throwing a tantrum until my doorbell rings.
So why not just walk into a German shop and pick up a copy? Firstly, the price is higher here than buying on amazon. But for me, the greatest barrier is language. I'm pretty fluent in my host nation's tongue, but I've found that all creative works should be enjoyed as much as possible in their original form. Books, films, videogames; so much is lost in translation. These days, many games are translated pre-release to allow uniform europe- and worldwide launches, but not all of them. One major game release may have completely new voice acting, rewritten menus, newly typed-up subtitles, whilst another bigrelease is thrown to the entire European market in just its original English form. For most games these days, burgeoning space requirements mean limiting a game to one language version per disk.
The other problem is that most of the time, they don't tell you which is which. On some games these days, you'll find little flags telling what language the manual, audio and subtitles are in. But by no means all. Imagine my surprise when I rented out BioShock for the PS3 the other day, to get it home and find that not a word had been translated, it was still exactly as the developers had intended it.
So, there you have it. Two quite different problems that, due to my living arrangements, conspire to keep me away from my beloved games for that agonizing final few extra hours.