Technology & Science

Rock Band shortages sure to anger gamers

There are going to be a good number of disappointed and angry rock-star wannabes on Thursday as video game retailers are expecting massive shortages of the year's most hotly awaited — and possibly most bungled — release, Rock Band.

There are going to be a good number of disappointed and angry rock-star wannabes on Thursday as video game retailers are expecting massive shortages of the year's most hotly awaited— and possibly most bungled— release, Rock Band.

On the eve of the game's full Canadian release, retailers still weren't sure how many copies they could expect, or if the shipments would even show up.

"We have no idea. It could be 10 or 100," said an employee at an EB Games store in Toronto. "It might also be late, a day or more."

"It's a total crap shoot," said a manager at a Toronto HMV store.

The game, which builds on the highly successful Guitar Hero franchise by adding drums and a microphone to recreate a full band simulation, is already a full month behind its release in the United States. A disc-only version of the title has already been released in Canada, but it does not come with any of the instruments necessary to play the game.

A number of chains, including EB, have been taking pre-orders— where customers put down cash deposits on the game— for months, but many failed to inform buyers that they may not receive their purchases in time for Christmas.

EB will be giving the game— which is being released for the Xbox 360, Playstation 2 and PS3 consoles— to customers in the order in which they pre-bought, even if those customers put down only a small deposit. That is likely to anger many who pre-ordered by paying in full.

The EB employee said other customers who pre-ordered will receive their games as new shipments come in, but are otherwise free to ask for their deposits back.

Customers who end up with defective instruments are also likely to be out of luck in getting a replacement until new shipments arrive.

Tracie Snitker, a spokesperson for Harmonix, the game's producer, said the shortages are because of massive, unexpected demand. The game's distributor Electronic Arts ensured there was enough supply in the U.S, but the game kept selling out.

The problem is in the manufacturing of the instruments that accompany the game.

"It's even worse than other peripheral-based products," she said.

Gamers haven't bought that excuse, given that Rock Band has beena heavily hyped title since it was showed off at the E3 Media and Games Summit in May, and have said distributors rushed the game in order to hit the key holiday buying season.

Snitker said there was a definite push to get the game out by Christmas, but denied it was released before there was a sufficient supply.

"There are a number of reasons why you don't release a game in January," she said, but declined to elaborate.

The confusion over Rock Band's release has even extended to the game's developers. At a Microsoft holiday preview event in September, Harmonix developers still did not know when their title would be released. The company also later said a Canadian delay could be possible because of French-packaging requirements— an excuse that rang hollow with many gamers, considering EA is the largest game distributor in the world with extensive experience in Canada.

Retailers also did not know the release date or pricing up until about a month ago.

The situation in some ways mirrors the limited availability of the Nintendo Wii. Despite being released more than a year ago, the console is still hard to find. Nintendo has said it underestimated demand, but industry analysts have speculated the company is purposely maintaining a low supply in order to keep demand high.