The Midnight Releases’ Grip, And Why It’s So Effective

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On the eve of what is arguably the biggest release of the year, it’s a wonder that anyone will be left to read this at all. With Bungie’s Halo: Reach a mere three hours and change away from being released in stores, and reviews praising their final installment into Master Chief’s universe, people are heading out to their local Gamestop’s, Best Buy’s, Target’s and even Wal-Mart’s in prep for what goodies may come out of this momentous night.

Yet as thrilling as that may sound, that’s not what this is about: far from it. As much from it as it could be to play Halo (and it is, I can assure you) what we’re looking at here, is the draw to the release extravaganza.Unlike pre-orders which occur all the time, these events come very few and far between, where you will have a dedicated release night or party for a select game or games. Few come to mind and even then it’s primarily only the games that have a standing fan base – thereby making it the sequels or prequels in the group – rather than the fresh faces.

Thankfully it’s that dedicated and starry-eyed fan base that makes it all worth that extra mile. While antics like this truthfully don’t do anything in the way of profits, what it does is bring in a thing called “word of mouth.” This delightful little tool will add in hype and that extra consumer to an already bubbling market, bringing it to a boil. Looking back to things like the Madden Gras and similar events recently, it helped sales almost 15% simply because it helped show that the company cared to go that extra mile.

Where an issue begins to arise is during location and frequency. It’s no surprise that a place like Hilshire Village, Texas would not get a release party that is of the same explosive value of that as the ones in San Francisco or New York City (unless a developer is there). The people aren’t there, there is no locational value, and you would never see people camped out beside a Gamestop for two days waiting in line. These things will have a tendency to alienate fans and as people in the gaming community know, gamers hold things personally.

The other issue hasn’t happened yet but the bigger the shows get, companies could potentially try and “up the ante” as it were, to try and make their games look better. Already this year there have been nine planned midnight release functions, whereas last year only thirteen overall. Given that the market still has titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops, Rock Band 3, DJ Hero 2 and Gears of War 3 still to be released, who’s to say what will happen. Does this mean anything less? Perhaps not, but what it shouldn’t do is cheapen the experience.

If you’re lucky enough to head to an event, like the one that is blowing up in New York City tonight in a few hours or in Seattle then please, try and take the time to enjoy yourself in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Chances like this rarely come around, especially when it’s such an acclaimed game. Just be aware, that in the end this is just the workings of something much bigger.

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