I’m not the most organised when it comes to placing pre-orders. The urge to do so is always there, it’s just the financial backup that I lack. As money is often a little tight, I can’t tie myself into too many pre-orders in case I just can’t justify it when the time comes. This is how I found myself in a position in which I pre-ordered Xenoblade Chronicles Wednesday afternoon, less than 2 days before its release.
It was slightly impulsive. Having eyed my bank account carefully while also glancing at the phenomenally good reviews for the game, I couldn’t resist. Scurrying across the internet, I discovered a few different places had it available to pre-order for around £29.99. I settled on one such place which I’ll be nice and not name explicitly but I knew would be very reliable when it came to delivering me the game on Friday morning. All was well. I was excited. I can’t get enough of the JRPG world and I hadn’t touched my Wii in a while so this was ideal timing. I even had a rare weekend of not much planned. Hurrah!
Thursday lunch time comes around and I receive an email from the retailer. Due to unprecedented demand and stock shortages, I wouldn’t be receiving my copy in time for the weekend. It’d be sometime next week instead. Some swearing may have occurred. I can accept that things like this happen (although surely this problem would have been known on the Wednesday afternoon when I first placed the order) but it’s still an annoyance. Having a good plan wrecked due to outside forces is always frustrating.[drop]So I set to work to find out the next best place to go. As it was about 2pm by this time, I figured it’d be too late to pre-order anywhere else in time for it to arrive Friday and even a Saturday delivery would be potentially pushing it without paying a lot extra for express postage. So I resorted to the High Street and pretty much everywhere else near me. Do you know how hard it is to confirm in store prices for anywhere?! It’s as if you’re dealing in a variety of government secrets. It’s hideous.
First of all, I decided to tackle the supermarkets. I phoned Tesco first expecting a vaguely competitive price and at least there are always around 2 billion Tesco stores near me. The phone call was a maze of options. Press 1 for the Pharmacy, 2 for the Phone Shop, 3 for the depths of hell. Eventually I got through to an actual person, albeit someone who I suspect was actually in a customer service call centre rather than my actual store.
The words Wii and Xenoblade baffled the hell out of her and she wasn’t sure she could help but she put me on hold while she went to find help. I was on hold for 7 minutes. Not even hellish, terrible chart pop music hold either. Silent hold. At one point I actually checked that my phone was still working as it was so deadly silent. After the 7 minutes, I gave up. Maybe she would have returned seconds later but my patience was pretty thin and I was extremely bored.
I moved onto Asda next as their online price showed £31ish but of course their online arm is totally different to the store. Owned by the Zavvi/The Hut group I think (this might be utterly wrong). So I tried my local Asda. One that I regularly shop at because all the staff are so friendly and nice and helpful. The one on the Music and Video (yes video) desk wasn’t. It was as if I’d asked her the most depraved question in the world – as if I’d asked her if she’d ever looked at a chicken in an alluring way. An abrupt ‘No I can’t tell you that’ followed by her hanging up on me when I was still midway through saying ‘Oh ok, thanks anyway’.
Morrisons were next. No price on their site but worth a shot nonetheless. They were actually lovely. Very friendly and keen to help. Unfortunately they’d never heard of Xenoblade Chronicles as it wasn’t on their system and they hadn’t had a delivery of it. They were keen to take my number and phone me back when they got it in, if they ever received it.
Giving up on the supermarkets for a bit, I reverted to more obvious choices. Blockbuster was next.
I’ll be frank here. I used to work for Blockbuster. Some good friends of mine work for them. Having consulted the site beforehand, I was 99% certain the price would be the same in store as it always has been in the past. £34.99 was less than ideal but would do. I had a pleasant chat with a former work colleague. After they misspelt Xenoblade and exclaimed that they didn’t have any copies of Zenoblade, they discovered that there was one currently in stock. Yay! Actually, no. Somehow the disc had gone missing. You see, Blockbuster separate the discs from the boxes in order to put the boxes out on display safely. Somehow the disc had gone AWOL already. They said they’d call me back once it re-appeared.
Finally, I tried Game and Gamestation. These two are lumped in together as it was remarkably similar. I called a 0871 number in both cases and was directed to an automated voice. It asked me to name the game I was looking for. I was quietly impressed when in both cases; it understood me saying Xenoblade Chronicles in a slightly exaggerated manner. I was less impressed when it simply told me that the game wasn’t out yet and to call back another time. Fighting my way through the myriad of phone options, I thought I’d get through to a real person. I never did. In both cases, no one answered. Sad faces all around.
I’ll admit my patience had been exhausted. I gave up at this point. Instead opting to wait until Friday to go around the shops myself to find the best price. This is the problem you see. There’s just no guarantee.[drop2]The supermarkets are so worried about being undercut by their rivals that they clearly daren’t tell the ordinary consumer what price a game will be upon release. I can understand it to an extent but it’s mostly just punishing the consumer. In particular, the attitude of the woman in Asda immediately made me think ‘Right then, not buying it from you lot if you’re going to be that dismissive!’ Really though, it’s just a bit frustrating and after a while, a little intimidating too.
In the case of all the others, there’s no transparency. We’ve all been there. Seen a game online for x price and when we’ve gone into the store it’s been £10 more than online. A few quid would be understandable. After all, shops have plenty of overheads like staff, rent, electricity, heating etc. But £10 is a bit excessive to say the least! It just makes people feel ripped off. Ultimately there’s just no guarantee of what you’re going to get. Some places are the same in store as they are online (like Blockbuster in most cases. There are exceptions) but others will be wildly different. To the untrained eye, it makes no sense at all.
As an addendum: I did get a copy of Xenoblade Chronicles in the end. Not for a very good price, mind. Having scoured all the supermarkets, two Blockbusters, two HMVs and Game/Gamestation, the only places that even had stock were the all mighty Game group. It was the kind of move that made me wonder if there was a bit of a conspiracy going on and that the Game group had actually bought up all the stock in my local area. I grudgingly bought it for £49.99 with a red controller bundled too as the only other option was £39.99 anyway and I was in need of a controller at some point. The curse of being a gamer who wants everything on release day and no later.
It could be worse I guess. While looking, I kept an eye out for Arcana Heart 3, another new release this week, despite owning a copy already. I didn’t see one copy! Poor, poor 2D fighting fans in my local area. They must have had a rubbish weekend.