Did you pre-order a console in North America this fall? Consider yourself lucky – not only that you secured your console in the first place (and have the money to afford one), but also that you are guaranteed your purchase on launch day. Here in the UK? It’s not that easy.
As an Xbox player – and according to the Brain Trust on Twitter as “Xbot”, because apparently nobody is allowed to enjoy anything in 2020 – I plan to pick up my Series X on November 10th Thanks to COVID-19, there is a chance that I won’t get it, and neither do countless other players in the UK and Northern Ireland as the ever-present threat of a temporary lockdown could derail things completely.
In the UK, few companies were offering online pre-orders, and it went as expected – websites crashed, people stood in endless queues, and limited stocks meant only the happiest gamers were able to secure their chosen console from the comfort of their homes. To avoid this frustration, thousands of people including me went to a store to get one instead.
The problem is, you have to order a console at the store to pick it up there. If there is a hastily announced lockdown – and there is absolutely every chance it will happen in the UK given the current state of affairs – the nation’s players will not be able to join the global party, whether it be Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 which comes on the market) our banks on November 19th).
To make matters worse, the lockdown rules set by the UK government only apply to England thanks to our insane governance. The other three nations in our strained union – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – have their own rules. We Redcoats, who once kind of ruled a third of the world (“Do you have a flag?”), Still haven’t figured out how to coordinate a decent response to the pandemic in our country, even though we’re barely the size of Oregon.
England now follows Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s eighth or ninth plan, which prescribes lockdown rules applied at the local level based on a three-tier system. By and large, things are still “normal” in shopping malls and on main streets. The third tier still doesn’t close stores, but as has been found in the past, tactics and rules can change overnight, much like our nationwide lockdown has closed all non-essential retail stores – including game stores – between March and June. Just yesterday there was talk of adding a Tier 4.
ScotlandThe company, which has had a historically “rocky” relationship with England, recently adopted its own five-tier system. There’s a joke about what England does, Scotland doesn’t, but doing our northern neighbors full credit; The generally stricter guidelines have proven successful. But if any country is next to trigger UK retail store closures, it is Scotland.
Northern Ireland has already closed all narrow business areas, but retail remains largely open. If things don’t improve, it in turn is expanded or intensified.
Wales is the worst place right now if you want your console on launch day. On Friday (October 23), Wales launched its “fire lockdown” which closed all non-essential businesses for two weeks. In reality, grocery stores are the only retail outlet allowed to remain open, as was the case in the UK between late March and mid-June. Welsh shops that sell more than just groceries and amenities are actively preventing people from buying anything that is considered “unnecessary,” including games.
Wales, which is just a hop, skip and a jump from Connecticut, plans to lift the ban on November 9, just 24 hours before the Xbox Series X is released. Even if the situation doesn’t improve, every chance Wales have plans to extend their suspension for another two weeks.
A similar idea has been put forward for the whole of Britain by Keir Starmer, the opposition leader in the UK Parliament – essentially our version of Joe Biden – but it may have been rejected outright as dichotomous politics are in effect in 2020. Still, politics is fickle and too the changes are quick.
In reality, the possible delays for the Xbox Series X and PS5 don’t matter. It is a situation absolutely incomparable to the real victims of the global pandemic. Countless families have lost someone they loved, while tens of thousands more have lost jobs or all of their livelihoods to our new, indiscriminate enemy. If closing stores for a while means more people are guaranteed to play the games they love on the new consoles they deserve open this year, then it’s a price worth paying.
Hence, one of the largest global markets for next generation games may, even partially, lag behind the rest of the world and UK gamers must prepare for that reality. 2020 strikes again and may take another thing we love.
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