The Animal Crossing: New Horizons Switch bundles are a new custom console bundle that includes the game and a custom-skinned console with a relaxing blue and white theme. The game bundle is up for pre-load on the Switch right now, and is supposed to come out in two weeks, but something strange has happened.
According to reports from Reddit users, some folks were saying that Wal-Mart’s online stores had begun processing orders and shipping the console bundles to stores way ahead of a release date.
Breaking a street date is actually much more common than many realize. Retail point-of-sale systems are directly linked to inventory systems for the ease of stocking products. Because as soon as a retailer knows a new product is coming, they can update their POS to start selling the product before they receive it. Usually, most big-box retailers like Wal-Mart will also include protections that prevent the POS from processing a sale for an item that has not hit its “street date” or release date. However, this only happens for the biggest releases in most cases, as it simply takes too much time to organize a huge list of UPCs and SKUs in this manner to prevent breaking street date for some outfits.
Back when I worked retail in the early 2000’s this kind of problem cropped up fairly regularly. Not all of the products were locked out of the POS system, so on several occasions, a game or film would only be caught as having broken street date once it was seen on the shelf or brought to the register. This case usually occurred when employees were working in an area that they had no knowledge in, and thus had no idea about release dates. This is very common in stores like Wal-Mart where employees from many departments are used to just putting stock on shelves and don’t have to pay attention to such issues. Overnight stocking is also a common source of this problem of breaking street date.
Sometimes a retailer will separate product that has a later release date to prevent it from being stocked ahead of time, but this introduced a new problem that caused some stores to miss release dates because employees forgot to check the area where street-dated product is stored, again stocking issues cause multiple problems.
It’s strange that this is all happening with the online section of the retailer, which should be more controlled and less prone to such human errors. Reports, in this case, say that the POS system is blocking sales of the in-store product until the release date, and this issue is only being seen with online orders shipped to stores for pickup. Some stores have also been manually refusing to sell the console, trying to stop the leak. Other stores have been more lax, with some customers getting their Switch consoles by asking nicely.
Word of warning to the retail employees out there, don’t do this. Your job is not worth doing a stranger a solid.