Multiple sources have told Kotaku UK that an unprecedented day one patch for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 means that the UK retailer GAME will begin selling the title on Thursday evening, the day before the official launch. The retailer sought and has been given permission by Activision to sell the game from 6pm GMT on Thursday 11th October, six hours before a planned midnight launch.
Note: this doesn't mean you get to play it early.
This last-minute change was made because the game requires an extremely large patch before it's ready to play, and so in theory players can now pick up the game slightly sooner in order to get the patch installed for midnight. Retail managers at GAME have been given clear instructions that this is not to be advertised as a way for people to play early – only an opportunity to pick it up and prepare.
Activision has been contacted for comment on this story, and we've also asked the publisher to confirm the size of this day one patch.
[Update: the patch is "roughly 50GB".]
Below is an example of the 'messaging' for this announcement: basically, this tells you how Activision and GAME want this move to be seen by customers.
DO NOT SAY
Any mention of "early access" / "play early" / "play at 6pm"
Pick up in Store at 6PM Thursday
Stores open at 6PM - Even if you haven't pre-ordered you can come in and pick up your copy
Install to your console ready to play at midnight
This messaging is interesting purely because it's trying to spin this as some kind of bonus for players, when the real story is that your £50 launch copy of a game needs to download a massive patch before it's ready to go.
That said, GAME can hardly be blamed for this, and fair play to the retailer for identifying something which could have been an issue and taking steps. Sadly this situation only emphasises how far removed today's blockbuster titles are from the brick-and-mortar retail model that was once their lifeblood. It's curious though: these games depend so much on pre-orders, getting players excited to be there at launch. The idea of those same players having to wait many hours for a launch day patch to make their new purchase playable runs counter to that.
[Update: official tweets from local GAME store Twitter accounts have confirmed the news]
URGENT NEWS! You can pick up your copy of #CallOfDuty #BlackOps4 from Thursday 6pm - 9pm. Don’t worry if you haven’t preordered! you can still pick up a copy & pre install the game and be ready to play it at midnight. WE WILL NOT! Repeat, NOT DOING A MIDNIGHT LAUNCH ? pic.twitter.com/SdkRMplrfM
— GAME Meadowhall (@GAMEMeadowhall) October 8, 2018
Further to the above, Kotaku UK has seen an order dispatch notice confirming Amazon UK are shipping pre-orders a day early, so that players can begin downloading the patch Thursday.]