The Big Launch
By Team Animefringe
Console launches are the days that all retailers spike their sales goals and the day that can induce a state of perpetual shopping-induced paranoia in anyone who was expecting to just walk into a store one day and pick up the latest piece of gaming hardware. If you wanna be first person to own the latest console, you've pretty much got to hijack a UPS truck on the way to it's destination. But for the gamers who aren't that brave, they have to set up camp outside a department store in the blistering cold or pre-order a system a year in advance.
Sure, all the next generation console hype has begun to flag now that all the major players have dealt their cards. Sega cashed in its chips on the much-loved Dreamcast almost a year ago, and Sony's still got a stronghold on the market with over a years worth of software under it's belt for the Playstation 2. Microsoft has stepped up to the plate with the Xbox and shows that it's system has the most horsepower while Nintendo has continued to follow its own path with it's box of petite love... the Gamecube.
The Internet was buzzing before the Xbox and Gamecube hit the market with rival camps forming to wage flame war after flame war over which system would be better. Being a bunch of gamers to the core, many of the Animefringers ran right out and scored themselves the latest pieces of hardware to fill up more space in their crowded game cabinets. We've asked each of the lucky saps to take a few minutes to relay the traumatic experiences that they had to go through in procuring the latest cool gamer thingies. Let the therapy session begin.
"This time of year is an exciting time for myself, as a gamer. As a gamer working at Toys 'R' Us here in Toronto, educating and entertaining the masses is a daunting task. November arrives, and with it comes the debut of two new video game systems, the Nintendo GameCube and the Microsoft Xbox. After pulling some strings, we were able to hook up the one of the Gamecube launch events at our store. You know the whole deal...open at midnight, have some demos, some balloons...generally making a night of it. Toys 'R' Us Canada had three launches across Canada, one for every "region" (i.e. the west, Quebec and the rest of us). Our store was a good choice, as we are along Yonge St., the longest street in the world and surely one of the liveliest.
A couple people began lining up as early as noon on Saturday to be the first to pick up a Gamecube. Time passed, and the props people came and set up their balloon droppers and fake torches and things of that nature. We were eagerly waiting the folks from Nintendo to bring the demo units so that the people outside could give it a shot. They did come, just about an hour and a half before midnight, and we had about 100 people outside the door waiting to get in. The first guy was pretty clueless as to what was going down. This is nothing uncommon with various video game company's representatives, usually I find myself telling them about what's new and on the horizon. So, eventually everything was set up and we were ready to let everyone in. We had about 250 units to sell, half of them Jet Black and the other half Indigo, plus about 90 Memory Card 59s, 30+ of each controller, a whole lot of Luigi's Mansion, Wave Race: Blue Storm and Star Wars, among other launch titles.
Finally, midnight struck and we let the first batch of eager Nintendo fans/parents in as balloons dropped from the ceiling, certainly a fun sight. Running around, back and forth, re-supplying and keeping the peace was a tough job, but everything went smoothly. The lines were long, and the noise was loud, but after about an hour and a half or so we had gone through the line and sold all that we could sell. In the end we sold about 60 of each unit. That doesn't really sound like a lot, but when you consider there was no advertising for our launch, it was a fairly good turnout.
I myself, not immune to the launch madness, picked up an Indigo Gamecube along with Super Monkey Ball and a Memory Card 59 and am I glad I did: Nintendo = Fun."
I'm a Nintendo fanboy. It's been true since I got the original machine on my 8th birthday. So it was natural for me to be excited by the Gamecube. However, the insidious new plot to move software, called "bundle preorders" kept me from preordering. So a week before the Gamecube's sunday morning release, a friend and I decided to go to Wal-Mart (the only place that would be selling the machines at 12am) and scope out the situation. After some misinformation and confusion, thanks to the Wal-Mart drones, we eventually decided to head out to Wal-Mart for the big day.
I got to the electronics department at 9:30, to become the twenty-third person in line. Already the "line" (really more of a mass grouping, as we just wrote numbers on our hand to keep track) was an eclectic mix of teenagers our age, younger children, and adults. Many of the adults, we later found out, were purchasing machines for their children. The group was very easy going. In fact, another person mentioned how nice everyone in the line was, especially compared to the wait for the Playstation 2.
Anyway, if there were any place one would want to spend four hours waiting in line, it would be Wal-Mart. Someone in line bought the Spaceballs DVD and played it on the store's display DVD player setup. A lot of us gathered chairs, seats, and futons from various departments, bought Cokes from the vending machines, and grabbed magazines. It was quite a bit like camping out in a retail wilderness. It could have been far worse: outside, no chairs, and so on. Anyway, at 10pm the electronics clerk had us form a line to receive tickets. The tickets allowed people to leave, since they had to be presented to get one of the initial stock of Gamecubes. So, many of the people left; some were going to come back at 12, when the machines were actually going to be sold, others decided to come back the next morning.
The rest of us went to the store's Lay Away department. A lot of us moved our chairs over and grabbed more magazines for the home stretch of the wait. Some fell asleep, others conversed, and as it got closer to 12, people started trickling in. A few of them were from the old line and some had been told to come at 12. In any case, they had to get new numbers. I got bumped up from 23 in the first line to 4. At about 11:45 a clerk brought a display filled with accessories and in about ten minutes, all the controllers were gone from the display. They had several black and purple controllers, and a couple of oranges, which were eagerly snatched up.
As for the color of the machines, the rumor went around (and was later confirmed) that half the machines were black and half were purple. Most everyone in line wanted the black, of course, myself included. The clock struck 12, and the purchasing began. However, Wal-Mart only sold Madden, Tony Hawk, and Rogue Leader. It was shocking that Wal-Mart didn't have Luigi's Mansion or Super Monkey Ball. Overall, the wait went very smoothly and I don't have any horror stories to excite and horrify you. But I will always remember snagging a futon and hanging out in the Wal-Mart Lay Away department.
Oh, my story isn't that interesting, so I'll make this short. I reserved my Xbox bundle a month before launch and just went right in the store and bought it. Simple as that. No real headache other than finding out how bad Shrek actually was, how much better Oddworld was than the demo, and how awesome Dead or Alive 3 and Halo are. Just beware of Kabuki Warriors... boy, does that game ever suck. The one thing that I've found I love the most about the Xbox is how fast game saving is.
And then there is Jake, who bought both systems, but you can read his editorial to find out all about this experience. Why? Because he's special. To wrap things up, here are some closing thoughts from the sorry saps who, sadly, missed out on all the ruckus. Pity them, please.
Well, the last console purchase I made was a PS2, on its launch day on October 26, 2000... With all the cash I spent on that, matched with the fact that the PS2 still costs more or less the same one year later, I don't really feel up to buying anything else until prices goes down!
I have one console. I saved for a whole year to buy it. I skipped lunches and lost weight. I now own a PSX. The PS2 just came out.... 1 week later. ARGH.
I have a Super Nintendo! And an N64! And a Playstation! I'm on the cutting edge... of 1996. *sigh*
Thoughts: God I wish I had the cash to get my PS2 right now.
More Thoughts: God I wish I had cash.
MORE More Thoughts: I need a paying job.