Here’s an article that didn’t make it into this Tuesday’s The Cairns Post. The editor decided to do a non-gaming article last week to space things out, which meant this article would have ran over two weeks after the event.
Hype, multi-million-dollar budgets and massive sales: All common elements of blockbuster movies and major video games. But there’s another parallel: The midnight launch, an event targeted at an existing fan base that will go out of their way to see/play the object of their devotion as soon as possible.
Retail chain EB Games organised midnight launches of the hotly anticipated action game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 across its Cairns branches on Monday, November the 9th. I decided to check out the one that promised to be the largest, at the Cairns Central store.
Oddly, Modern Warfare 2 is the sixth game in the core Call of Duty line. Its direct forebear, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, abandoned prior games’ World War II settings for contemporary battles between Western special operations units and Middle Eastern terrorists. Arguably, it’s also the most popular. Given the gaming community’s anticipation, I was surprised that only a handful of gamers had arrived by 11:15.
Within a quarter of an hour, the queue was around forty people long. This mightn’t seem small, but staff member Steven Poon reckoned several hundred turned out for the launch of the Xbox 360-exclusive Halo 3. Why less fan enthusiasm for Modern Warfare 2, available (at the time; the Windows PC version was released on November 24th) on both 360 and Playstation 3?
The answer probably lies in Call of Duty’s appeal to the 25-45 age bracket. Such gamers have day jobs and commitments that prevent them attending weeknight events. Younger gamers are often more flexible and find fantastic warfare more appealing than factual settings. The attendees were divided evenly between the school/uni crowd and 25-45s.
To make the launch fun, the store offered a NERF foam dart pistol each to the two best costumes. Most entrants turned up in camo fatigues, but Storme Sankey-O’Keefe donned a balaclava and aviator sunglasses after arriving. His chutzpah as the only terrorist earned him a pistol.
The store also set an Xbox 360 up with the original Modern Warfare running on split screen, allowing two guests to play head-to-head. This, the contest and the small crowd all made for a casual, friendly atmosphere.
While the older gamers were looking forward to the challenge of the story-based single-player campaign, the teens saw it as a training ground for online play. Ty Gordon said he’d play the campaign “for ten minutes” before going online to pit his skills against other gamers.
Costume prize winner Scott Olafson was looking forward to “Going online with customisable kill-streaks.” Modern Warfare’s multiplayer mode rewarded players with airstrikes and other weapons after killing several opponents without dying. The sequel will allow players to choose their rewards.
Sankey-O’Keefe expressed a balanced interest, wanting to play the campaign “on the hardest difficulty to challenge myself.”
“The first one took me four days of non-stop playing,” he said. “I can remember the (campaign) prologue off by heart!”
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is on sale for Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Windows PC; RRP $99.00.