I’ve been following the Mass Effect series for years now. From the first rumours of the series I was intrigued. An epic sci-fi role-player told over the space of a trilogy, with your decisions from each game carrying over to the next installment. If done well it could be mind-blowing and there was no way I was going to miss out on something with the chance to revolutionise the industry.
I followed the game for a while, becoming more excited as more features were revealed. When the first game in the trilogy was released I was a little disappointed at just how much had been cut out of it, but ultimately there was enough substance to the game that I enjoyed it immensely for weeks. When the second game arrived I had to wait to play it as my console crapped out as soon as I put the disc in, and was away for a fortnight getting repaired. During that two week wait someone managed to spoil the entire ending of the game for me, so I vowed to stay away from news or articles about the series (this will be an important factor soon). Nevertheless I played the hell out of that game and learned which of my decisions had impacted the story there. I bought all of the storyline DLC and experienced the entire tale. There was room for improvement still and some previously good aspects had been overly simplified, but the story more than made up for that. The actual story in the second game was a lot weaker than in the first (although ancillary tasks were much stronger and better integrated) but it was my story; a continuation of the choices I’d made in the previous game, sometimes vindicating my hard decision and sometimes showing me up as the wrong man for the job. For better or worse, this was my story continuing to play out and it was addictive.
And so we come to Mass Effect 3 which is due to be released on the 9th of March. I did what I always do with a game I want and evaluate it to see what it’s worth to me. As the ending to a story I’ve been playing for five years and anticipating for eight, I decided it was worth whatever they charged me, and decided to treat myself to the very limited release Collector’s Edition. I found out that GAME, a video game store franchise here, had offered the publishers a premium so they had exclusivity on the Collectors Edition in this country. I’m not a fan of GAME as their group keeps messing things up for me, but this was my story so I signed up a pre-order with them and sat back happily knowing I’d got myself one of only three thousand Collector’s Editions of the game booked.
Remember when I vowed not to read up on Mass Effect 3 in case someone leaks spoilers again? Yeah, I kept to that vow. It was only by dumb luck at four o’clock this morning that I happened to catch a headline about the game. It turns out that GAME Group, in the midst of some financial troubles, have started to be denied credit by publishers in case they default and cripple the industry. They called a meeting with publishers and attempted to negotiate better terms on games (getting them in cheaper, paying more after sales, etc). This was going well but the publisher of Mass Effect 3 had a problem. They’d given exclusivity to GAME in return for GAME paying more for each copy and buying more copies of the game in. With that offer off the table they weren’t going to hold out on other companies and let them have the stock originally earmarked for GAME. The entire GAME Group wont even be getting the regular edition of the game in. This was leaked via an inter-office memo to gaming journalists a couple of days ago and, as I was staying away from the press, I almost missed it. GAME for their part proved my problems with them by not even contacting me (I have my email address and telephone number on my reward card and used that to preorder) or others to warn them about the changes. God knows hiw many people will be showing up at GAME stores around the country next Friday, looking for a game they’ve paid for but wont be able to get. Worse still, by that time it’ll be too late to get the game anywhere else either.
I went down to GAME this morning and was the first one through the doors. I feigned ignorance and came only to pay what’s left on my preorder so I can just pick up the game and go. I was sympathetic to the staff (and genuinely still am) and what this turn up would mean for them in terms of abuse. I left only fifteen minutes, two calls to head office and one call to a neighbouring store later with a full refund. Part of my payment had been put on a gift card and the call to head office was to get that turned into actual cash I could spend elsewhere. My money was back but I was a little disheartened. I rarely go for limited editions so when I do it means a lot, and to have the regular edition wouldn’t be quite as good to me, especially with something that personal. Still, as I’d missed that news story until so late, I resigned myself to that anyway and started home to order it on Amazon, knowing from my research that all the online stores sold out in seconds.
You know those times when reality decides you’re kinda swell and changes the way the world works to suit you? You can almost feel it swirl around you as you make a choice you normally wouldn’t. That’s how I found myself in HMV asking if they were perhaps getting any of the excess Collector’s Editions in. The guy behind the counter checked and they weren’t. Just at that moment the system updated and the Collector’s Edition showed up for ordering in store. I slammed my money on the counter and he typed like a force of nature to get me that preorder in. We completed the transaction and then he called his head office to double check that it was indeed what I was looking for. Victoriously, I returned home to look forward to the end of my story.
And that is what it’s like to be me.