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Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s PS4 pre-load is another nail in the midnight launch coffin

Friday, 6th June 2014 07:55 GMT By Dave Cook

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is yet another game that signals the potential end of midnight launches, thanks to its pre-load option on PlayStation formats. VG247′s Dave Cook looks at the dying art of waiting in line.

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”They take the bag off you and start pricing up all your games to see just how little you’ll get for them. That copy of FIFA 14 you bought just last month is worth £15 at the till, but deep down you know I’ll be going back on sale for £39.99 tomorrow. Thieves.”

If you pre-order Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare right now on PS4 and PS3, you have Activision’s guarantee that you’ll be able to play it from midnight on the morning of November 4.

The only other way to play the game this early is to attend a midnight launch at your local game shop and rush home. These hype-driving events have sat as an entrenched fixture in the games industry calendar for years now, but the new trend of console pre-loads threatens to drive a stake into the heart of those hours-long queues. It’s a battle of convenience.

Midnight launches are not convenient. There’s an undeniable buzz that comes with heading to your venue of choice to get in line and be among the first to play a new game. You saw the reveal a year ago, followed all of the news, felt your heart skip a beat when watching the first gameplay, and you’ve saved up all your money for launch day. You’ve earned the right to play on day one. You are the biggest fan in that queue.

At least that’s how it feels. But after an hour of standing in line you notice that you haven’t moved very far, and the big rucksack of games you planned on trading in is feeling heavier by the minute. Meanwhile, right at the front, someone is trading in even more games than you while arguing with some poor cashier that his games aren’t too scratched to be exchanged.

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He’s being a dick and you want to say something, but you’re too tired to protest. It’s well after midnight now, and the promise that you were sold – you know, the one about being first to play this game – has crumbled, and you’re cursing all of the people who are already home by now. They’ve probably even prestiged already for all you know. The utter bastards.

The queue moves slightly but you’re so deep into a fantasy that involves dancing on the grave of xXx_SnIpEz_xXx for getting his or her copy an hour earlier that you fail to notice the shift, until the still-eager chap behind you gives you a polite, but faux-accidental nudge from behind to keep you in line. Still too tired to argue, too irritated to really care. Still, it’s a good thing you took the next day off work to recover and level up a bit. There’s always that.

”Online stores and pre-loading will increasingly dilute the allure of midnight launches by simply being more convenient. Trade-in discounts are all they’ve got left as a plus-point, and that’s fleeting because we’re slowly but surely embracing digital across the board.”

It feels like a week has passed but you’ve just crossed the threshold of the game store and you’re being blasted by the g-force warmth coming out of the overhead heaters. The contrast in temperature hits you like a roundhouse to the face but at least you’re not out in the cold any more.

You hadn’t realised how long the queue inside the store was until you see it for yourself. You’re closer to getting out of this place and back home to play the game, but there’s still far to go. It’s now one in the morning and your patience is wearing thin.

The overworked and underpaid store staff don’t want to be there any more than you do but it’s their duty to ask you if you have any games to trade. ‘No,’ you think, ‘I just thought I’d bring this heavy bag of bricks to the store with me. It helps my back.’ You’re too polite to actually be this sarcastic so you force a smile and say yes instead. Coward.

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They take the bag off you and start pricing up all your games to see just how little you’ll get for them. That copy of FIFA 14 you bought just last month is worth £15 at the till, but deep down you know I’ll be going back on sale for £39.99 tomorrow. Thieves. Your anger fades as it finally happens; you’re summoned to the register to make your purchase and get the hell out of this place.

Your trade-ins are worth much less than you thought, they’re all out of the exclusive pre-order shirts in your size, but you turn to find there’s still a queue of about 30 people behind you. That buzz returns as you walk past those suffering fools, and your pace quickens as you exit the shop, only to be slammed yet again by the contrast in temperature. You’ve done it, you’ve survived and what’s more you’ll be playing the game before those 30 poor saps eating your dust.

”The queue moves slightly but you’re so deep into a fantasy that involves dancing on the grave of xXx_SnIpEz_xXx for getting his or her copy an hour earlier that you fail to notice the shift.”

Was it worth it? Well no, because by the time you get home it’s now close to 3am and you’re too tired to play for long. But there’s always the day-time, right? By now you’re the 33,954th person in the world to have purchased the title, and the promise of being first has long lost all meaning.

Midnight openings and high-profile launch events are not offensive, but they are inconvenient. It’s true that you can’t save money off Sony and Microsoft’s shameful digital price mark-up by trading in your old tat on Xbox Live or PSN, but the ability to pre-load a game and jump right in at midnight as promised certainly appeals.

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Instead, I’d much rather buy a game at reduced cost from an online retailer that I know will deliver it on launch day. These sites do exist, even if publishers try to put a stop to them.

Online stores and pre-loading will increasingly dilute the allure of midnight launches by simply being more convenient. Trade-in discounts are all physical stores have got left as a plus-point, and that’s fleeting because we’re slowly but surely embracing digital across the board. Believe it, this is happening.

The brick and mortar stores should savour the midnight launch racket as long as possible because it’s not going to stay relevant for much longer.

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12 Comments

  1. mistermogul

    Man I’ll never forget how excited I was waiting in line for Ocarina of Time at Game at midnight.

    There was such as buzz and a feeling that we were about to get something very special! Good times…

    #1 6 months ago
  2. fengato

    Glad not to be in the line – (I live in the country and the drive home takes quite some time.)

    Dave, when are you going to report on this (maybe I missed the article):

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M56_O7a_aKQ

    release date now too.

    #2 6 months ago
  3. Dave Cook

    The above story may or may not be based on some level of reality.

    #3 6 months ago
  4. Sethos

    Oh, you mean like with Watch_Dog’s broken ass launch? License issues, having to cancel your pre-order and buy it again because it never actually registered your purchase etc.

    #4 6 months ago
  5. AmiralPatate

    I remember waiting for midnight for Mass Effect 2, the game preloaded on Origin or EADM or whatever it was called at the time. Then I realised it was midnight in an other time zone. So I went to bed and I said to myself I will never ever care again about that midnight launch thing.

    #5 6 months ago
  6. Dave Cook

    @AmiralPatate Ouch! That really sucks

    #6 6 months ago
  7. AmiralPatate

    @Dave Cook
    Well, I did play it all day long, being fully rested from a good night sleep. So it’s OK I guess.

    #7 6 months ago
  8. dazedonthemoon

    Eh I for one can’t stand digital, trading in my physical copies for some credit towards other games really help me buy a lot more games than I would if I went digital. Last month Gamestop had a 50% trade bonus and I got $150 of credit. Bought Infamous brand new for $60 and got $45 for the trade it. $15 dollars in the long run for a brand new AAA title? I’ll take that over digital any day.

    #8 6 months ago
  9. Dave Cook

    @dazedonthemoon It’s a valid point for sure, although I reckon the prices will need to come down eventually if the bricks and mortars lose their edge. Either that or digital trading happens in some capacity (unlikely though..)

    #9 6 months ago
  10. AmiralPatate

    @Dave Cook
    The European Union recognizes digital trading. I remember Oracle trying to prevent user from reselling their keys and EU said they couldn’t do that on the ground that digital software are no different than physical software, or something like that. I think Steam got some flak for the same reason. So maybe not that unlikely.
    But I agree, if Sony and MS want their digital future, they need to push it forward. Make the games 10 or 20 cheaper on digital stores. And maybe more sales like Steam does. Make it attractive instead of just somewhat convenient.

    #10 6 months ago
  11. majormayhem70

    A father speaking to his son, and says “It’s true son, once upon a time we stood in long lines waiting for midnight to strike so we could buy games that were actually put on discs. Times were so different back then son, not like now where everything is downloaded.” Boy looks at his dad in bewilderment, and asks “Dad, what’s a disc?”

    #11 6 months ago
  12. Xephon_70

    Pre-purchase – paying for the game the week before it releases and then just walking in and picking it up, no waiting; extra % on trade ins and trading in before midnight; pre-order bonus DLC (love it or loath it); 99p offers on specific game trade-ins (Wolfenstein was a recent one) and so on…

    Retailers are trying everything and anything to remain relevant, it might work in the short term, but if digital can become more cost competitive and as Dave says, become more attractive, then retailers will have to change and adapt or risk being left behind.

    #12 6 months ago

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