Update #3: Dispatch has now committed to giving weekly updates on the status of its projects via email and on its social media channels. We've added the first update (via Twitter) at the bottom of the page.
Update #2: On Saturday 23rd May 2020 Dispatch put out a second update following one in March after a further two months of radio silence. This was mailed out to press and also reproduced on Twitter. It begins with 'These are unprecedented times' in large bold font before providing some information on the progress of certain games and the company's plans going forward. We've reproduced the text in full at the end of the article, beneath the first March update.
Update #1: Since publishing this article at 18:00 on Saturday 7th March 2020, Dispatch Games has sent out an update via email and Twitter concerning the current status of its products. We've reproduced the text in full at the end of the article.
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.
Update #1 : On Monday 9th March a tweet went live from Dispatch Games confirming that the company is still "alive". This was followed on Tuesday 10th March with a statement sent out via Twitter and email which we will produce below. Dispatch suggests that the Coronavirus situation has impacted its plans and productions. Here is the statement in full:
We want to provide an update on where we are and again apologize for the delayed communication. We know its vital that we keep you informed and we are working on improving that communication moving forward.
There are a lot of moving pieces in getting product done and sometimes, things go sideways. Sometimes – very much so.
Retail has been a challenge for everyone – including us. This has been one of the most significant areas that impacted our timing and schedule over the last year. We will be modifying our plans regarding retail releases moving forward.
We do business with suppliers in China – most companies do. The evolving health issues have impacted some of the Limited Edition items we had sourced from China. It has affected our supply chain along with every other company doing business there due to government restrictions.
Turn times are significantly extended or in some cases - unknown as factories attempt to come back online. Transporting those items would have been via cargo ship, which normally takes a few weeks. Given the current shipping situation, we expect sea transport to be disrupted for some time. We obviously began sourcing from alternate suppliers once we understood the scope of the issue.
- There are currently no issues with getting the game carts from Japan.We air freight those in and production currently remains normal.
- We have a new, US-based print supplier who is currently working on the printed items now.
- The album and CD sets are from US-based suppliers and currently production remains normal.
- We are currently targeting April 21st as the release date for Radirgy Swag.
- We are currently targeting May 5th as the release date for Game Paradise.
- We are currently targeting May 17th as the release date for Japanese Rail Sim: Journey to Kyoto.
Global shipping times may be extended due to circumstances beyond our control in your local area.
We appreciate your continued support and patience. We are committed to earning your business and your trust again.
Update #2: On 23rd May 2020 Dispatch sent out the following statement to press and via Twitter following over two months of radio silence (except for a single tweet promoting the JALECO License Catalog website). We've reproduced the update below in full:
These are unprecedented times.
We find ourselves rapidly adapting to the challenges associated with the global pandemic. Everything normal with the supply chain, staffing, development and even shipping has been disrupted on a worldwide scale. We have been adjusting as our partners and vendors have been adjusting to the ever changing new normal.
We have dealt with product delays before – they are part of the business. It happens. What hasn’t happened before is an almost perfect storm, compounded wildly by changes in the world outside of our control. The health and safety of our families, partners and customers has taken center stage.
6 weeks. We need at least 6 weeks before we can get product launched. Band-Aid ripped.
This is an estimate - We cannot guarantee a specific date yet given the situation in the supply chain. It changes nearly every day. We do not want to put out another date only to miss it again for reasons out of our control. What we can do is keep everyone updated on a weekly basis.
So, what are we doing about it?
This update was held up as we completed our effort to ship out ALL remaining open orders - including combined order items that were being held awaiting other titles. Anyone that had a combined shipment with any of the delayed products will get the remaining items shipped when they are ready at no additional charge. Tracking on shipments went out to everyone today.
We also have been addressing the customer support backlog and customer requests. These should be completed tomorrow. We are also planning to introduce a new ticket support system next week – stay tuned for those details. This new system should address support issues rather rapidly and provide you with more visibility on your support needs.
Jaleco Pocket Players
– These are now in stock and all placed orders have shipped.
– Now Making.
– Now Making. Yes, the e-Shop version will be coming directly through City Connection. This has been the plan for some time - nothing really changed in terms of our strategy with the team except for the release timing.
Rail Sim – Now Making.
– This has been delayed due to development related issues. We expect to have this addressed soon. Coins are still coming to those that ordered. We will give an update on those shortly.
Soldam PS4 – This has been delayed due to development related issues.
We are focused on getting all these handled before we talk about anything new.
Everyone stay safe and healthy out there.
Update #3: Dispatch has now committed to providing weekly updates, the first of which can be found below:
We attempted to contact Dispatch for a response before original publication (Sat 7th March, 2020) although with no better luck than the customers we spoke to. This article has been updated on 10th March, 25th May and 9th June 2020 to add the company statements above.
Let us know below if you've had any experience - good or bad - with Dispatch Games, and if the statements above satisfy you.