As the video game industry moves inexorably towards digital-only distribution, there’s a vanguard of publishers across platforms making sure that lovers of the physical article still have options. It’s not just the fear that one day our digital licences will be revoked and we will lose access to our libraries, but also the satisfaction of having a shelf filled with lovely media. Being able to thumb through your collection and pick something to suit your mood is a distinct treat in an age of ephemeral pleasures. There’s a ritualistic aspect for some collectors of physical media that’s tough to replicate digitally, so no wonder there’s a healthy demand for physical releases, and a roaring trade for smaller, boutique publishers.
I haven’t heard anything of significance from them at all
One such publisher is Dispatch Games, a California-based outfit set up in 2016 bringing specialist Japanese games to the West. The publisher has a few Switch and PS4 releases under its belt to date, with the arguable standouts being classic arcade shmup Psyvariar Delta and fun little puzzler Soldam: Drop, Connect, Erase, a Japanese Switch launch title which came to the West later in 2017.
Dispatch is set to release further titles in the form of shooters Radirgy Swag and Jaleco’s classic The Game Paradise: Cruisin’ Mix Special and has been taking pre-orders since the middle of last year. Both were originally scheduled for a Fall 2019 release and although they may not be marquee releases for the mainstream Switch audience, they rightfully attracted the attention of devoted fans. “I ordered both Radirgy Swag and Game Paradise for Switch from Dispatch – pretty much as soon as they were announced,” one customer who prefers to remain anonymous told us.
Unfortunately, the release dates for both Radirgy and The Game Paradise (also known as Game Tengoku) came and went and customers have been met with radio silence via social media and direct contact channels. “I haven’t heard anything of significance from them at all regarding those items, but the original date for Game Paradise has been and gone without any update.”
“My issue is a lack of consistent updates on status,” another customer, who goes by the Twitter handle @_Flowerboy777, told us. The lack of communication is by far the main problem for the people we spoke to about the situation. “I ordered in August and while I am understanding of delays due to development and production, the only update was on December 5th and 6th for both titles, which just amounted to ‘we’re working on it.'”
It seems that the company’s radio silence is not limited to information regarding the status of orders, with change of address requests via email, the contact form on the company’s website and social media have received no response either. Looking to the company’s website, we find the following mission statement:
Dispatch Games™ is a publisher focused on unique opportunities for developing and shipping products worldwide. By using extensive development, production, and sales experience, Dispatch Games™ can efficiently expedite the process of bringing exciting products to the global market.
Unfortunately, it seems that Dispatch is slacking when it comes to the ‘efficient expedition’ of its products, and it’s not the first time it has happened. “A couple of years ago they handled the Psyvariar Delta physical,” continues our anonymous customer. “I ordered it somewhere else, but I saw a lot of angry people complaining about delays and lack of response then. After they finally delivered Psyvariar, they put out a PR message saying they understood frustrations and promised to do better etc etc. Now, however, they’re just repeating the same behaviour.”
While it is easy to suggest that people looking to buy these particular games get them from another source, it’s not always that simple. “Part of the problem is there is no other way to get the games they’re selling […] even though they’ve been a total nightmare, people who want that title would have no choice but to use Dispatch.”
Indeed, the website proudly states this fact, although for customers still awaiting the games they have already purchased it’s a sore point. The Dispatch Game Online Store provides no information regarding the expected dates of the two aforementioned games, although the ‘Terms & Privacy‘ section of the site is substantial when it comes to disclaimers regarding the accuracy of the little information on the site.
The most recent social media communication from Dispatch was a cryptic image teasing 21st April as a date to mark in your diaries. The responses were predictable, but once again went unaddressed by Dispatch:
This attempt to drum up hype is evidently not encouraging to people waiting on orders purchased months ago. “Their social media is promoting even more products now,” says Flowerboy, “which is not at all comforting to customers waiting on games purchased far in the past.”
Nobody we spoke to said they had experienced a sustained communications blackout like this with any other company. Despite the almost total lack of communication, the solutions seem obvious to all.
I imagine consistent updates every week or so would really help bring some good will
“Seeing as this is apparently a recurring issue from statements of past customers, the damage may already be done,” Flowerboy777 tells us. “Obviously Dispatch is just a publisher that we unfortunately have to deal with to get these products. But I imagine consistent updates every week or so would really help bring some good will, along with not taking money immediately for pre-orders if they are unable to release remotely on time.”
Our anonymous source also thinks there is still some hope for the company to turn things around. “First they need to actually deliver the products. Second, they need to give expected times, etc. Third, if they’re having troubles, they need to inform people.”
As that last point highlights, the people we spoke to seemed more than willing to accept delays as long as they are communicated clearly. In the age of crowdfunding successes and failures, the general gaming public is more aware than ever at the pitfalls and perils of game development and publishing – we can’t be the only people still waiting for a 3DS download code for Mighty No. 9 that will never arrive or be referenced again by Comcept. While there are groups of consumers ready with pitchforks and hyperbole at the slightest delay, there is also an equally understanding, knowledgeable and accepting audience prepared to wait when problems crop up. They know the road to market can be bumpy and with the smaller and relatively niche audience for these products, there’s an opportunity for more direct communication and explanation. Not knowing the situation is understandably the biggest source of frustration for Dispatch’s customers; people just want to be kept in the loop.
Dispatch has another product up for pre-order at the time of writing: Japanese Rail Sim: Journey to Kyoto, “expected to ship April 2020” according to the pre-order page. Another Dispatch Games Western exclusive, it’s an extremely niche product that enthusiasts will certainly be excited to get their hands on. It remains to be seen if Dispatch can deliver this time, and in a timely fashion. Given the subject of this particular game we’d expect nothing less, though on current evidence it seems unlikely.
We attempted to contact Dispatch for a response before publication, although with no better luck than the customers we spoke to. We will update this article with any statement they provide. Let us know below if you’ve had any experience – good or bad – with Dispatch Games.