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.
”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.
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.
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.
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.