When we started IGDB one of the early things we did was keeping track of games based on their platform and release dates. Obvious, right? We thought so too! What we quickly realized however is that game releases can be much more messy and complicated than we thought :D
Take hardware: a game may have several releases on completely different platforms and yet carry the same exact name, without being ports or remasters. Magic Knight Rayearth is a good edge case example: a series of JPRG based on an anime, each released individually on 4 different platforms (SNES, Saturn, GameBoy, and GameGear) between 1994 and 1995 and all of them bearing the same name and yet being different titles not sharing anything in common aside their theme. Confusing much? :D
Such a case is of course an extreme exceptions, but still a concern for IGDB as it runs the risk of confusion by being flagged as duplicates within our API. Add to the fact that games can be re-released either as a reboot or as a remaster (which is of course very common these days). A recent example would be DOOM for Nintendo Switch: is it its own game, is it just a re-release, or is it a new version of a game which, in turn is a reboot of an original classic? Sometimes we make a call on those, but ideally, we prefer a good open discussion from the gamers out there!
Take release dates: Those can vary drastically from region to region. Some games may not release outside of their original regions (a common fact in the Asian market), and when they do it could be months if not years later.. sometimes long enough to be a different product with added features, patch or endings). Yakuza 0 for example saw a staggered international release with huge gaps, originally release in March 2015 in Japan but only made it to the West 2 years later (3 if you count the PC port!)
Now take editions: it’s a common fact that games releases in multiple variants, some right at launch in the form of pre-orders, bundles etc.. some later as Game of the Year editions, director’s cuts, VR editions etc.. Sometimes across multiple hardware generations and region specifics. All of which needs to be taken in consideration to get the bigger picture of a game’s release window.
Combine all that: poorly documented and changing hardware, versioning, region specific releases… and suddenly documenting a simple thing such as a release date gets more complicated!
How IGDB tackles releases.
By now IGDB has most of the physical platforms under wrap, with some exceptions. Arcade cabinets are a bit tricky to handle specifically since they are all unique hardware for the most parts, and digital distribution platforms can also be a head scratcher: Steam OS, OnLive, or even specific versions of the Nintendo eStore can be problematic to fit within a unified system.
Currently IGDB keeps track of games released on a total of 132 platforms, ranging from 1958 till.. well, the future :D Primary regions we record are North America, Europe, Japan, Australia, and China. We’ve had quite a few requests to expand our region list to Brazil and other South American countries as well as better coverage for Asia, which we’ll be adding very soon 😉All of which of course via our API!