Street Dates Are Nonsense

More rumors of street breaks for Dragon Ball Super

Why They Exist

For those unaware, a “street date” is a restriction of sale dictated by a company regarding their product. For example, the sale of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince could not be conducted before the given date (oh god, the spoilers). Industries originally put these in place to keep larger stores from over-running smaller stores, like a sort of self-regulating form of capitalism. They’re not in the law and there can ultimately end up being little to no consequence, depending on if terms of service or a contract is involved. Large stores could use early sales as a form of arbitrage against smaller stores, ruining any chances of the latter having a fair shot. Sounds like I’m for them right? No.

In particular, this is a response to the never-ending accusations of Dragon Ball Super having broken street dates 1-2 weeks ahead of time. Several of these accusations have been fake, caused by baseless and poorly-researched rumors. However, new accusations keep coming so I’m not even going to bother researching or calling them out. Ultimately there’s going to come a time where a store does actually break street date and I want to lay some shit down in that inevitable event:

Why This is Bullshit

Once a distributor puts it in a store’s hands, there’s nothing Bandai (or most any company) can do legally to stop the sale or even punish them. There’s no contract signed to which stores must adhere. It’s an arbitrary capitalistic control scheme and means exactly nothing (remember the part about self-regulation?). Let me paint you a picture—a store spends hundreds of dollars on cases of product for a game (especially a new one from a company with bad history like Bandai) and are somehow socially expected to eat that capital loss for a month or more with no safety net just to stick to an arbitrary date.

On the bright side: We didn’t hold you upside-down and shake out your pockets, so you should be grateful.

This isn’t like the video games industry where the game companies have a ToS/contract and enforce a fine on an electronics store for breaking street date. Some companies, namely and entirely Wizards of the Coast, will blacklist your store if you break their product, preventing you from ordering your boxes from them for a time (you can still order elsewhere). But for some no-name *literal who* like Bandai’s card game? Bandai would just be shooting themselves in the foot. Street dates on the whole are bad for customers in every industry. Smaller businesses will always break date to compete with larger stores—who arbitrarily follow the rules; because it’s one of their only methods of competing.

Unlike the video game market, people primarily obtain product through small business retailers. Obviously, you’d still want to keep an even playing field between large stores and small stores, but is there really a point in enforcing street dates uniformly across state lines and same-size businesses? Remember, card games that you take to your LGS aren’t digital; steam can’t stock like 4 million product keys for Dragon Ball and give everyone pre-order bonuses and the convenience of home downloads. The card game market is not as large as the video game market, so advertisement goes a lot less far; there’s no real excuse for street dates to even exist.

Why People Think It’s Bullshit

After doing a bullshit experiment and asking around (to people I know in CCG communities), most of the anger towards breaking street comes from gamers who are being shitheads and don’t want anyone to get something before they do.

Oh fuck it, leave your angry comment. I’ll wait.

How incredibly petty. Feel free to pat yourself on the back if you knew everything about why street dates exist before you got to this part, but only if you weren’t also a shit-eating toddler about it. This isn’t really something customers should give a shit about, frankly. As an end-buyer, you want stuff as fast as possible, assuming you didn’t already drink the corporate kool-aid. And if you’re the type who goes on about “supporting your FLGS”, you should be all for breaking street. If you were a small business, what would you do in the face of crippling debt and ever-present financial hardship?

  1. Abide by some arbitrary stipulation that’s currently hurting your business and go under because your $750 case of cardboard-and-ink-in-cellophane-wrappers can’t be sold
  2. Sell something you legally bought so you can eat this month

These two options aren’t always equal. A large card store doesn’t care—Star City Games makes so much from their national presence that they won’t have to endure the kind of crushing financial trouble I’ve seen in most game stores. Again, this is a business model primarily run by small businesses. It’s probably doomed to fail at some point, but who wants to be left holding the bag for an entire industry’s failing practices? Do you? Shit no, you don’t and neither does any business owner. That’s why this is going to keep happening.

What Can Be Done About It

I don’t know any more about vertical markets than you’re pretending to know right now as you read this article. But like you, that’s not going to stop me from pulling wild speculations out of my ass on how “I would totally fix it if I had a store” and other Dunning-Kruger-inspired thoughts. Here’s my “bullshit bullet list of how I would totally fix it if I had control of the vertical market and/or a store“:

  • Have distributors ship the product less insanely early.
  • Change how distributors move a certain percentage of product so that you don’t have to pay until it ships, then see the above point. You can cancel before it ships and you only lose 10%.
  • More cats somewhere in this process and if you disagree, you’re a shit person
  • Maybe something that doesn’t create another Prisoner’s Dilemma like street dates do
  • I dunno

What’s going to happen: 

  • Small stores are going to keep breaking street because they have every incentive to do so
  • Large stores are going to keep abiding by street because they have no reason to risk it
  • Producers are going to keep establishing toothless street policies (except Wizards, watch your ass)
  • Distributors are going to keep shipping early without deposit security because they have to compete with others who won’t
  • Customers are going to keep buying broken street product because they want it early
  • Kool-aid drinkers are going to keep getting mad at stores that break and pretending they know everything
  • The industry will keep suffering
  • There will be no cats ☹
  • Everyone will hate me for having an opinion

And all was right with the world. Well, until this article stirred the hornet’s nest. Go forth my trolls! Comment until your fingers bleed.

On the other hand, maybe we can all stop giving a shit about stuff that neither pertains to us in our every day lives nor we can change? Nah!

Alice White

Alice is the webmaster of VMundi, author, editor, mathematician, and autodidact. She has over 6 years of publishing experience writing articles for various self-run sites. Her interests include game design, economics, Game Theory, graphical design, and mathematics.

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