What Happened to Midnight Launches?
Ah, the days when we would line up for our much-anticipated games to come out. Whether it be or rain or shine, cold or hot we would wait diligently in line to pick up our games. We would even have had the game’s fully paid off for weeks or months due to our excitement over a few trailers released during E3. You may have noticed this year that there haven’t been many if any midnight releases for games. In fact, most releases now happen at 9 p.m. if they happen at all. What has happened to the long lines and late nights of waiting for your favorite releases to go live?
The De-evolution of Releases
When launches started out they were small events of the hardcore fans and didn’t happen too often. However, this changed in the 360 and PS3 eras when Video games really started to bloom This is when the big companies pushed pre-orders and retail chains like Gamestop started pushing launch parties for the game’s first buyers. These events went from small gatherings in dedicated stores to full-blown celebrations and parties where you could win free stuff and attend events related to the game itself like cosplay contests.
For the biggest games of the year like Call of Duty you could even find block parties with professional DJs. There were even tournaments you could compete in to win a free copy of the game or gift cards. At a lot of game stores, there would also be raffles a few minutes for launch where everyone who pre-ordered had a chance to win promotional goodies from the store. The lines for these would stretch around the buildings that held them and where a hot spot for exchanging gamer tag or making new friends.
As games have progressed you may see a few long line still for big launches, but the smaller games only have a hand full of people show up. There is no longer that many giveaways if any at all and most people would rather just come right before the game launches than socializing. Tournaments also slowed down to only being reserved for bigger titles with fewer participants competing in each one. Slowly these releases have all but completely died out with less and fewer people interested in waiting around a store until late for a game they may not even get to play for a few hours.
Why This Happened
There are a lot of reasons people gave up on standing around to midnight for games. One of the biggest being people who worked or went to school had a hard time going out and waiting to midnight to get a game. While you will still see people willing to stay up playing a game all night, the process got tedious to most. Get home from work/school and drive to the store. Wait between 3-4 hours to participate in all of the events. This also included possibly standing in the cold for a good while before finally lining up to get your game.
While this process was fun at first shivering in the cold and getting home sometimes near 1 am to get a game could be a huge waste of time. Releases where either an amazing social experience or a complete bust for me. The last few I attended I ended up more disappointed than happy with. This is because of the fact as I grew older as a lot of the launch crowd has college classes were hard to go to in the morning after staying up to pick up a game. Now that I work I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to try to manage the release then wait for the game to download and install.
Going on to the install point, digital gaming is now a huge market. That means that it is sometimes easier to preorder a game like Destiny online and have it downloaded and ready to go when midnight rolls around. This makes the process quick, easy, and very accessible for anyone with decent internet. Digital versions also don’t sell out, meaning it’s easier to get the deluxe editions of games with all their features no matter how late into the pre-order cycle you decide to get in on the action.
Next, we have the demographics which for some of the bigger titles have gone towards children 16 and under. This means that for them to get to a release they will need to bring a parent. While there are tons of cool parents out there most of them work and don’t really see the fun in staying out extra late to get a game. It also doesn’t help that game launches are always on school nights making parents even more leery of letting their kids stay out late for a game they can pick up the next day.
The New Launches
To combat the issues above companies and publishers have started to change the way games are launched as of this year. If you have pre-ordered any titles this year you may have noticed that all of them have been available for pick-up before midnight. Most games have had 9 p.m. releases that leave out all the dramatics and focus on getting customers out the door with their products This also helps get an edge over on digital pre-orders which still go live at midnight. This means that you easily could have the game downloaded with a couple of hours of play in before the digital version even goes live!
This is also done to make the launches more accessible to everyone. Most people generally stay up to around 10 p.m. at the earliest making the launches much more appealing. This way no one is rushing to get home or sitting in their car bored because all the other stores around the launch have already closed. This time slot also helps be more inclusive for younger gamers who have to go to school the next day and don’t need to lose any sleep.