Ah, the venerable midnight launch. The once-expected tradition of camping out for midnight game launches — so timed as to technically adhere to official game street dates while still capitalising on gamer obsessions and enthusiasm — is, at least in New York City, on the verge of extinction thanks to numerous factors like public safety, liability concerns, pandemic precautions, and overall consumer welfare.
But on this date, September 9, 2022, the spirit at least lived on, thanks to Nintendo NY’s formidable RSVP system, which requires hopeful purchasers of — in this case — Splatoon 3, to log in on their My Nintendo account, and reserve a timeslot in a virtual queue to buy the game.
I, for example, was late to the party, and only checked the Nintendo NY Twitter account to see if they had any launch event happening, and they did. By the time I’d checked the details, however, they only had 1 AM and beyond time slots remaining, so I RSVP-ed and made my way over just prior to midnight to get a glance at the queue.
The last time I’d covered a launch, for Pokémon Arceus, things were pretty calm. Perhaps it’s because it took place in the heart of NYC’s winter, or maybe it was because it was a Pokémon spin-off. Whatever the reason, it didn’t require much effort to get in line and buy the game. The Mario Strikers: Battle League launch was similarly drama-free, which is to be expected. Nintendo or not, sports games don’t whip up the kind of fervour usually reserved for a new Zelda or proper Mario game.
But for Splatoon 3 it was refreshing to see the queue go all the way down the block from Nintendo’s doors, almost all the way to 6th Avenue, which is a long city block in NYC terms. There was a sizeable gap between the 12 AM queue and the 1 AM extension, which I was in. After a bit of waiting, the line would periodically move forward in sizeable amounts, so all things considered it wasn’t all that bad.
Whatever Nintendo NY is doing nowadays, they’re doing it right, at least from the perspective of a father of two who’d rather be sleeping at 2 AM than buying games. It was my son’s ninth birthday, however, and instead of simply ordering the game online and waiting for it to arrive in the post, this gives me a good reason to go see a good old-fashioned game launch and to bring home a shiny new copy of the game for my kids, along with whatever launch day swag Nintendo NY gave out.
In this case, my reward for buying the game at Nintendo’s flagship North American store was a promotional keychain of the new Splatoon 3-exclusive Tri-Stringer (bow) and a nice, horizontal poster that’s exclusive to the event. My kids and I have a long history of Splatoon appreciation, as you can see from the image below.
When the original game first launched for Wii U back in 2015, my kids were five and two, respectively, and I was such a fan of the character design I dressed my own kids up as Inklings and had them chase each other all over South Street Seaport in NYC, with the help of some homemade costumes and an official hat that Nintendo had sent me. They’ve been hooked on the series ever since.
So, since it was my son’s birthday, I promised him I’d attend the midnight launch and nab him a copy of the game. I nabbed three, in actuality, because I knew him, his sister, and myself would all enjoy playing the threequel’s new local co-op modes. What better way to learn the ropes before taking on the online community?
In any case, once inside the store, there was literally no one in line buying the game. Everyone inside had either already purchased the game and were perusing the rest of the store (which was, to my surprise, open for business beyond just selling Splatoon 3) or taking photos by the large Splatoon 3 backdrop on the first floor.
Whatever the case, I was just happy to see everyone having a good time, as well as a clear line to the counter where I bought not only the game, but the elusive amiibo set featuring Callie and Marie, the game’s commentators, at normal prices. I also picked up the new Steve & Alex Minecraft amiibo, which they had behind the counter at Nintendo NY.
In all, this was as pleasant a launch experience as I’ve ever had. I’m too old and tired and employed to deal with camping out for three days in advance, living in a tent on the sidewalk, just to be the first person to buy a game, so I’m really glad technological advancements have made midnight launches like this one as convenient, smooth, and hassle-free as possible. This way we all get to play the game a little early, and no one has to suffer for the pleasure.
All hail the new midnight launch. Long may it live.