During the launch of the last generation of consoles, I was working at a Gamestop, trying to make enough money to live, eat and drink beer. I was just out of college, so getting a PlayStation 3 or Wii for myself on day one was completely out of the question. I didn't know what it was like for those folks waiting in line, but it was sure easy for me to be cynical about the whole experience. They were getting up early to play video games. I was getting up early to sell them. Both systems launched just days apart. It was not exactly ideal. However, some seven years later, my perspective on new console launches, and the industry as a whole, has changed dramatically. So, armed with an energy drink and plenty of expectations, I set out to my first ever midnight console launch as a buyer.
It's incredibly easy to be cynical about the gaming industry. As someone entrenched in that world, there's a seemingly endless onslaught of negativity and backbiting about one thing or another, and after a while it can get tiresome. You can feel incredibly optimistic about the future of gaming one day, only to have those dreams and ideas dashed by the indifference of a few others. Having been in the industry consistently for close to a decade, first as a retail partner and now as a journalist, I haven't had much of a chance to see what life was like outside that gated community of hardcore, obsessed gamers. There's an entire world out there full of people who just want to enjoy things It was never more obvious than when I was in line at my local Gamestop last night.
You see, you have to be a special kind of excited to go to a midnight release for anything. And I don't mean, "Oh, I think the PlayStation 4 is neat-o," kind of excited. I mean the kind of excited where you drive all night through three states just to see Dane Cook live because at one time in your life you thought he was a funny dude even though all your friends were astounded by the fact you liked a guy who referred to Burger King as the BK Lounge (Full disclosure: that's a true story about a friend of mine and not a story about me in the least [Full full disclosure: that's a story about me. It was a very different time. I happen to love Burger King.]) When I was working the launch of the PlayStation 3, I didn't have that same kind of hope and hype. It was a terribly draining experience to work retail that holiday season, as both the PS3 and Wii were constantly out of stock, and being the guy who had to tell people they couldn't have the cool new thing was a burden. Coupled with long hours and infrequent sleep, new console launches were something I used to dread.
Everyone in line last night was happy to be there. In the days leading up to the PlayStation 4's launch, comment sections and Twitter were aflame with bitter judgments and harsh, unwarranted criticisms about Sony's new system. In line, that microcosm of the world felt even smaller. Fathers and sons were in that line. Husbands and wives were in that line. None of them were there because they wanted the PlayStation 4 to fail, or because they were self-loathing Sony fans. Each person was there to pick up a new console because he or she was genuinely looking forward to being among the first to experience what the PS4 had to offer.
All night long the chatter was about what games people were picking up first. PlayStation Network names were exchanged. Play dates were arranged for early this morning. After being inundated with so much strange disapproval over the past week, seeing what life was like outside the walled garden of spite was refreshing. As the clock ticked down to the witching hour, people who were fighting back sleep became rejuvenated. Working a 12-hour shift before coming to pick up his PS4, the guy behind me in line was barely holding it together at 11:30, but once we were in the final five minutes, his sense of purpose was renewed. This was a man who was determined to play Battlefield 4 in spite of the Sandman staring him dead in the eyes.
When I woke up yesterday, I wasn't sure it was necessary for me to be out so late just to pick up a video game system. I'll admit, some of that game grump syndrome may have affected me a bit. Also, I like to sleep. After spending the twilight hours with a small collective of like-minded gamers, my excitement was renewed, and I knew I made the right decision. What's more, I get to do it all over again next week for the Xbox One. Some of those same people will be there again, but there'll also be others who, like me last night, will be experiencing that moment of a midnight console launch for the very first time. It won't be quite the same feeling, but now that I'm a savvy veteran of such events, I'll be there to dole out advice, provide some morale and hand out some coups to the BK Lounge.
Luke Brown is the associate news and console reviews editor here at Arcade Sushi. When he's not busy writing about the latest in gaming, he's probably reading comics or Sushi's comic book sister site, Comics Alliance. His opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of the staff at Arcade Sushi or Townsquare Media. You can follow him on Twitter here (@MLukeBrown).