The Nintendo Switch has already arrived in some houses courtesy of early deliveries, and fans around the world are gearing up for midnight launches. One tradition is set to continue in the US, too, with a 30 day journey by a super-fan to be first in line for the official debut sale in the country. Timezones means defining a 'first' purchase in the world (or even the US alone) isn't feasible, but the publicity shots of Nintendo of America's Reggie Fils-Aime handing over that initial purchase are a part of any Nintendo system launch.
The man pictured with Fils-Aime, for multiple generations, was Isaiah TriForce Johnson. A record-breaker in eSports (through his company and team Empire Arcadia) and for his queuing exploits, his Power Glove and appearance on these occasions has been ever-present. After Wii U, though, he said he wasn't able to carry the torch any more.
Instead, over the past 30 days TriForce has been teamed up with Alex Pekala, better known as Captain Nintendo Dude or CND on YouTube. We caught up with the two dedicated men this week to talk about their experience over the past 30 days, and about the extraordinary Nintendo community that has united around them.
For CND, it all began with a Skype call.
I fantasized about being the first person at the store, but I never thought I'd be that person, I just thought I'd be part of the launch night. But in thinking about it, I knew about TriForce and I told myself that if I was ever going to be first I would contact him and ask for his help. So I got his email and asked for pointers, not looking for anything else.
He said let's talk on Skype. He had a proposition about passing the torch and finding closure, and would help me wait for a month if I was up for it. I was freaking out, and here we are!
The key phrase over the 30 days has been passing the torch, moving the tradition and all of the community impact it brings to a new generation. For TriForce it's proven to be an ideal collaboration, with some hints of fate to how it all came together.
TriForce: This is about the ending of one era and the start of a new one. Alex wanted to be part of the launch, and wanted some tips to be early in line. When he contacted me I had a proposition as I wanted closure. It's not because I don't want to do it, but at my age it's not conducive for my lifestyle. It's just not becoming of someone of my age to do this - we need to know when to stop, pass the torch and let the next generation make their mark on the culture.
So I looked at his YouTube channel, he's young (19) and grew up in 8- and 16-bit games, that's ridiculous. The guy is called Captain Nintendo Dude and looks like Captain N: The Game Master. It's like fate. So I thought this is the guy to pass this to, to usher in the next generation. I told him I would help him stand in line, and do what I did in standing in line for 30 days. Having done that he'll have earned the right.
CND: I'm feeling fantastic about it, too. I was a bit nervous, and there's pressure to it, and I thought there's no way in the world I could do this without TriForce helping me. I saw an interview from the Wii U launch where he talked about passing the torch, and I thought "man, I'd love to be that person".
Triforce: This is something you have to want to do. You need the drive, passion, maybe a bit of eccentricity and confidence. He has all these qualities at such a young age. I joke we're like Yoda and Skywalker.
During our chat one theme came back again and again - community. The Nintendo community has a way of rallying around events and the culture that the company generates, which often seems unique and rather special. This is only amplified in a city like New York, where so many passionate fans are within a short commute of each other. The impact of social media is also significant, with YouTube / Twitter / Facebook etc bringing fans together from all around the world. Over the past 30 days this has shone through, with the both TriForce and CND being hugely grateful for all of the support.
TriForce: The community usually does this. I try to compare the Nintendo community in New York to the old arcade scene. People that get together and socialise because they share a medium that brings them together. So when a flagship game or hardware comes out the community does this, it's part of the culture of the community and Nintendo.
This is the cultural significance of what a launch does. And now we're in an age of social media, so we share the experience with people around the world with Twitter, YouTube and so on.
CND: I never expected this many people to come out that knew who I was and like the videos. The response from the videos has been insane, people freaking out, me freaking out! People are just coming to hang out, that's the community. We hang out all day messing around, making videos, talking about games we're excited about.
I come from a small town in Wisconsin and there's not a big community like this. Here in New York I've found so many people like me. I don't have to filter myself when talking about stuff like this; that's really special.
TriForce: There's a big difference with this launch, because with social media everyone can know what we're doing. Back then, with previous launches, it was all about people seeing me at the store or in some mainstream media / local news, and knowing about it that way. But it this age with Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, you can read the comments from those engaged with that we're doing.
We get a tremendous amount of support from around the world, people saying "nearly there guys, keep going". That's come from everywhere, all over the place. It's phenomenal to be honest with you.
I'm not saying the support wasn't like that when I was doing it, but there weren't the same platforms for people to find out about it and share that positivity.
CND also had kind words for the staff of the Nintendo NY store, even if "at first they wondered what these crazy people are doing". As it's Nintendo there have been no formal endorsements, of course, but CND has been able to participate in store events and even got to attend a press event that promoted 1-2-Switch. The employees have been sensitive to the challenge too, offering ponchos in the rain along with similar gestures.
This quest, of course, has brought the two men into daily contact with Nintendo fans, so they've been getting a feel for the buzz around the Switch itself. There's a sense that the concept is resonating with company fans, at the very least.
CND: In my own small world, because this is such a social system - you can take it with you and so on - it's great. It's typical Nintendo in that you share with others, but you can take that on the go now and it's insane. Everyone's so excited about what you can do with the system; I think they can't wait to take it out and play with their friends, and it's on a whole other level of excitement.
Obviously, being a fan myself, I'm excited about it.
Triforce: As for me, I haven't heard anything negative at all from the community. It could be argued that I'm not looking hard enough, but the hype for the Wii, compared to this, the Switch is tenfold to that. I think most would agree, Nintendo fans or not, that what the system is offering in social gaming is something that no other system, from any company or generation, was able to provide. That's what has everyone hyped. This system truly represents what the Famicom was truly trying to do - everyone playing the video game. The Switch now does that, and on the go.
As this is published the real queue will have formed, and the challenge has amplified. Though the process to this point isn't as dramatic as some would perhaps assume, it's still rather demanding; as we were speaking the two had recently begun a 24 hour system, tagging each other out to hold the line.
TriForce: It's been 24 hours since the weekend, as we switched the schedule to take 12 hours each. We swap, go back to the AirBnB, shower, produce videos and then tag back. CND literally has videos of us tagging like something out of WWE. We're trying to express that 'Switch' tactic so people see that it takes two people to get it done.
There's this fantasy people have of someone camping for 30 days with no shower, no toilet break, never leaving the line. That's all foolishness. We're trying to be realistic and honest on how it's done. So far so good, we're on the final stretch. Though there's rain coming unfortunately.
CND: I got a plastic sheet, an umbrella and tape. We're going rig up a tent to keep dry, basically!
TriForce: I have a lot of confidence we'll make it, no doubts whatsoever.
What was clear from talking to both men was the camaraderie and sense of community that a campaign like this brings. Activities like this arguably bring out the best in the Nintendo community, highlighting what makes following the company so special. Their 30 days sitting in a New York queue also highlight the best parts of human nature - we'll end this feature with a lovely story about Nintendo culture and a random act of kindness.
TriForce: What makes the Nintendo community special is the organic stories. Some fans do sensational things for 15 seconds of fame on YouTube, but that's not what we're doing. This is a culture, what we're doing, and it doesn't happen with other communities - only Nintendo does this. I've been doing this for over 20 years, and I think I can say that with authority. We have Nintendo fans around the world supporting this, the passing of the torch. It's not even about the system, it's about the culture.
CND: There have been countless wonderful moments, with people coming up to meet us, saying it's cool what we're doing in passing the torch. People love that we're sharing this, and they don't want it to end!
Not long ago something happened with Gabe - who's become a regular in a little show I've been doing over the last 30 days. He loves his 3DS, playing Smash on it all the time. We were outside and he was helping me record, we were setting up a tarp for a makeshift tent and his 3DS fell out of his pocket. It was literally in two pieces on the road. This guy, with no real hesitation, saw Gabe sitting there devastated and came over. We just met him, he's called Owen, on crutches from something where he bust his foot at work. He went over to Gabe and said "hey man, I'll get you a new one".
Gabe wasn't sure what to say, but Owen said it was fine, pointing out they sold then in the Nintendo NY store. He literally went into the store and bought Gabe a brand new New 3DS XL, better than the one he had. So it was a random act of kindness. Owen had the ability to do something, and he did it.
It makes me so happy. People come around and bring donuts, cake and stuff. It's not just for us, it's for everyone, they're sharing it, everyone together. Everyone's so welcoming, allowing this random kid to come here and 'be first', it's amazing.