I am an impatient man, of this there is no doubt. My poor, long-suffering wife essentially has a grace period of about three minutes from the established home time in which to walk through the door otherwise I have a massive sulk and prepare the dinner in a passive aggressive way. You know the type; cutting the veg heavy-handedly so the knife hits the chopping board at a slightly louder than usual volume. Yeah. That’ll teach her.
So why bother? Well aside from my aforementioned, Verruca Salt-style, “I want it NOW” personality, Launch Day is the closest I get as an adult to recreating the feeling of a childhood Christmas. It’s just so darn exciting, I genuinely lose sleep. Wrapped up tight in my duvet with a stupid grin plastered across my face, I speculate on the number of cable ties that hold the power supply unit in place or the number of languages on the health and safety information or if the BBC is going to do a bit on it on the breakfast news.
You’re a pioneer. At the bleeding edge. In the moment it’s easy to forget that you’re probably the millionth person to press the power on button. You know that Elbow song about opening your curtains? It’s like that. A thrilling adventure. A beautiful day. It’s cool as FUCK. It’s also a pretty sad commentary about our relationship with possessions and the dark pleasure that comes from their acquisition, ingrained in us since birth thanks to a relentless, capitalist machine constantly blasting advertising into our faces since birth BUT NEVER MIND ABOUT THAT IT’S LAUNCH DAY!
Below are a few words about my launch day experiences, but please don’t take them as a recommendation that you join in. See them more an attempt to justify why I continue to cheerfully smash panes of glass against my head, paying several hundred pounds each time for the pleasure to do so.
2000 – PlayStation 2
Games: SSX, Fantavison.
I became an adult in the year 2000; a fact that my Mum spent my childhood telling me held some significance, despite the fact I’ve never met anyone else who gives this information even the most cursory of eyebrow raises. I was taking a year out and saving up for university; which as you can gather from this entry and the one below went swimmingly.
I was lording it up at home on nine and a half grand a year which was enough to make me feel like I was an international playboy. So when the chance arose to put my name down for a fancy black box that you could store horizontally AND vertically, well, you just don’t get many chances to be a part of a cultural milestone as huge as that very often.
And this was a launch where you PROPERLY had to put your name down. I don’t entirely remember all the details, but you actually had to have all your information jotted down and sent off to Sony. They said it was because the machine was in such high demand which sounds like total chinny reckon looking back on it. I wonder if all these forms still exist in a filing cabinet somewhere or if they were stolen in a low-tech, dry run of the great PS3 hack.I remember being somewhat disappointed that this system meant that actually collecting the device was rather civil. I popped into my local Electronics Boutique at opening time and me and some other saddo calmly carried our transactions in peace. There was no throbbing horde desperately clawing at the plastic bags. Nor a queue of nerdy, homeless people folding away their sleeping bags after roughing it for a week to catch a glimpse of Smuggler’s Run. Just “here you are”, “thanks”. Rubbish.
Fortunately, SSX was really good and Fantavision was pretty nice. And it was a DVD player too, so I got to watch Fight Club alone without my mum tutting over the punchy bits. Although my highlight of those first few weeks was the Metal Gear Solid 2 trailer which I watched so many times that seventeen years later, I’m thinking of using a reenactment of it as the basis for my debut one man show at Edinburgh Festival.
2001 – Game Boy Advance
Games: Kuru Kuru Kururin, F-Zero: Maximum Velocity
Remember when the Game Boy Advance was landscape before the clam shell re-design? No, of course you don’t, because it was completely fucking awful. My overriding memory of this shitshow is steadily making my way round the perimeter of our garden in order to find the perfect lighting conditions necessary to make this fucking thing borderline playable. I can’t even be sure I ever figured out the exact science to what those conditions were. The screen wasn’t back-lit, so did this mean I had to have the sun in front of me or behind me? Perhaps I needed to play perched upon its surface or deep within its fiery belly.
Despite being the first handheld ever designed with the angler fish player in mind, I completely caned the thing until my hands withered away and resembled those bastards that fall from the ceiling in Zelda dungeons. Kuru Kuru Kururin got the majority of my attention and I think I managed to complete it the day after launch in the kind of move that infuriated by parents back then. Fortunately, this was my own money now so they were slightly less bothered that a game which could broadly be described as “moving a stick” was consigned to the shelf before the Earth had completed a full rotation upon its axis.
Having experienced a slightly disappointing launch day experience first time round, I thought I’d mix it up by going to a Debenhams concession. Not entirely sure what I was expecting to be different; a Black Friday style fight up the escalators perhaps. Turns out there’s even less people bothered about getting into a department store bang on opening and I was the only prick there. Having worked in retail myself, there’s a special look of contempt that you reserve for customers banging the door down and the girl from the perfume counter had this nailed on. There wasn’t even a Blue Cross Sale on FFS. I gave her my trademark thank you/apology hybrid, hastily made my way through the ‘fumes, completed my business and left. Why do I find this exciting again?
2002 – GameCube
Games: Luigi’s Mansion, Super Monkey Ball, Sonic Adventure 2: Battle
Midnight opening mother fuckers!
There’s something fantastically stupid about leaving a shop at ten to one in the morning so that you can play a video game at the earliest possible opportunity. Not only does the process destroy your body clock for the foreseeable future, but excitedly making your way through darkened streets clutching a hefty looking plastic bag with GAME plastered across the front of it, is one stop short of having a huge, flashing neon sign attached to your head that reads “THIS WAY FOR A-MUGGING”.
Being a man powered by paranoia, I splashed out on a taxi to avoid any potential beat-‘n-steals. I generally walk everywhere, regardless of the weather, so this was quite an extravagance. But then I was also a student at the time and money and value had a strange, ethereal nature; ensuring I had the latest Nintendo was more important than petty things like food and shelter. I’d be shivering alone under three, threadbare jumpers and surviving on a diet of out-of-date, tinned turnip chunks in brine for the next few weeks but OMFG IF YOU PRESS AND HOLD Z ON THE STARTUP IT MAKES A DIFFERENT NOISE!
Before making the trek into town, I popped round a friends flat to find them playing “Centurion”; a drinking game that involves downing a hundred shots of beer on the minute, for a hundred minutes. “What a ridiculous and immature pursuit” I thought to myself before settling down to a night of Monkey Tennis. My love for Super Monkey Ball has been well documented round here and it would prove to be one of my favourite launch games of all time. Quite what was going on when I decided to spend £40 on Sonic Adventure 2 is anyone’s guess; particularly when you consider that our local off licence would provide 40 bottles of the delightful tipple “Chardolini” for a similar price. I’ve never been totally convinced by Sonic and this wouldn’t be the game to win me over; if I wanted to listen to some terrible raps whilst pushing right I’d have gone to a facist hip-hop festival. I’m sure they exist and can be found locally.
I didn’t really like Luigi’s Mansion either, truth be told. But I’ve got to keep that quiet or the other fanboys won’t let me back in the secret treehouse. Generally though, this launch was a goodie; thanks to the machine being actually bloody brilliant but also amazingly priced. It was £130 on day one which makes it sound like it was released a hundred years ago. Back then, thrice tuppence and half-a-ta’happenny could buy you a return ticket on the steam tram, a pound of Dr Mavricks’ tobacco flavoured chewin’ fudge and a copy of Def Jam: Fight for New York.
2004 – Nintendo DS
Games: Polarium, Project Rub, WarioWare: Touched!
Midnight opening. Mother fuckers.
My view of forcing retail staff out of their beds in the dead of night so that they could earn all of £7 because you couldn’t wait a few fucking hours changed somewhat when I was on the other side of the counter. Yes, around this time I found myself having tiny pieces of my soul chipped away as I sold another copy of fucking Ghost Recon or some shit whilst proper, real games like Baten Kaitos sat unloved on the shelf. “Fucking cretins” I’d think to myself, slowly transforming Dylan Moran’s character in the equivalent version of Black Books (which I guess would probably be called “Purple GAMEs”).
It does put a bit of a dampener on the experience when you know you’ve got to be up at seven in the morning to sell hundred of the things, but I soldiered on and managed to get mine home and play bit of WarioWare. It wasn’t nearly as good as the original though; a sentence I’d become only too familiar in using when talking about that series. And Project Rub was basically the same thing but with all the humour replaced with sex people, Lynn. I enjoyed Polarium too which reminded me very much of Jessica Fletcher, in that it was a really good little puzzler.
There was little here to suggest that the DS would go on to be one of my all-time favourite machines, nor that touching stuff would become such a large part of gaming for years to come. Generally, I prefer things with buttons, which always makes me feel like a curmudgeony old twat (what a beautiful image I’ve painted for you there), but the DS won me over with a truly outstanding catalogue of left-field oddities over its lifespan.
I even bought a handcrafted stylus with my name on it. I bloody love styluses. I find something so lovably quaint about them. Like a stereo with a built-in minidisc player.
2006 – Wii
Games: Bomberman ’93, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, Wii Play, Wii Sports
Check out Richie Rich over here. Not quite sure how I managed to afford this little lot when at the time I was still employed by the nation’s most bafflingly successful high street chain. Perhaps whatever black arts they’re using to avoid bankruptcy rubbed off on me. Perhaps I just nicked it all. I’m joking, obviously. I don’t have the constitution to carry out a heist like that. I once accidently pocketed one of the pencils from Argos and spent the next few weeks on the run to Mexico.
Mind you, I was absolutely fuming at my paymasters in the lead up to this launch so a little rewengay wouldn’t have gone amiss. A few days before the big event, a memo went round stating that any staff pre-orders would not be honoured in order to make more units available for the public. It’s an interesting and unorthodox way to inspire your team before a big weekend I’ll give them that. Fearing the kind of response that would have made the French Revolution look like Dance Dance Revolution they quickly backtracked on this and I found myself with this mental little white box on launch day, back when we all still found the name hilarious.
Being a total fucking trailblazer, I actually filmed myself setting everything up and playing it for the first time. Unboxing videos are all the rage these days so it’s a shame I’m so utterly devoid of charm otherwise I could have stuck it online and made my fortune. Quite where this tape is now is anyone’s guess, which is a shame, as I’d quite like to be able to relive my first fumbled forays into motion controlled gaming. I bet at the start I was waggling it around a bit too hard and at a funny angle. Like your mum.
Zelda was excellent fo’ obvs’ and I’d keep an eye on Wii Sports if I were you; something tells me that game is going to be huge. Banana Blitz was genuinely awful; perhaps the most disappointing launch game I’ve ever bought. One of the minigames; Monkey Flying Saucer or some shit; was like having a chimp scream directly into your face for three minutes like that monster does to the old lady in the Aphex Twin video. Horrible stuff. Bomberman was notable as not only being the first digital game I ever bought but also being responsible for the first time I swore in front of my parents. I took my new toy round to show off and despite having hundreds of bombing hours under my belt, I was roundly beaten by my then 12 year old sister. If that doesn’t deserve a loud, involuntary “oh for fucks sake” I don’t know what does.
2013 – PlayStation 4
Games: Call of Duty: Ghosts, Contrast, Need for Speed: Rivals, Resogun
Jesus Fucking Christ, look at the state of those games. With the exception of Resogun; which was, is, and always will be completely amazing; it’s like I’ve been possessed by “Thatch” from down the pub. He’s one of those guys who’s such a lad he gets referred to by a variation on his last name. Goes to Yates, always seems to have a new T.V, stands weird; you know the type.
Code magnolia levels of blandness aside, this launch felt pretty darn exciting. Mostly because it had been bloody years since the 360 and PS3 had been released so everyone was completely losing their shit. In that moment, seeing a slightly better defined gruff cockney in a full camo gear barking at you to take out tangos like you were laying siege to Britvic HQ seemed well worth the cost of entry.
In retrospect it wasn’t of course. This was a truly terrible launch. Elsewhere people were gritting their teeth through Knack or waiting for EA to get Battlefield 4 up and running. Thousands stuck in endless lobbies like the fevered cheese dream of Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi. These days, the machine is more or less essential. But it’s safe to say it had a rockier start than the career of Sylvester Stallone.
This was the first time I experienced the majesty of having a machine delivered by DPD. DPD have a very clever strategy when it comes to establishing themselves as the best courier company, and it revolves around not being totally fucking shite. Rather than vaguely throwing your package over the border of your postcode or leaving it with your nearest designated drug addict, they actually attempt to hand it to you. It’s a brilliant concept.
Of course, my PS4 was delivered at half past four; at the exact moment I had to go out and collect the children. I’d naturally taken the day off work, so in order to keep myself busy I spent the day tidying the house. It was spotless. Like I’d been on the meth. I was so bored and restless that day I genuinely emailed Tesco to tell them of some excellent customer service I had recently received. Just wanted someone to talk to.
2017 – Nintendo Switch
Games: 1, 2 Switch, Bomberman R, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
I’m writing this but a week after launch so the dust hasn’t quite settled yet. I had hoped to finish this post beforehand to ride the wave of launch fever, but missed it on account of spending every waking moment staring directly into the face of the dining room clock, willing my life away.
This was another hang-around-the-house-and-wait-for-a-van launch. I’d got myself the DPD app this time round which is brilliant as you can frustratingly watch your driver making drops in your local area seemingly at random. It was actually an excellent bit of foreshadowing for Zelda; a game which puts so many delightful surprises round every corner it’s impossible to make your way around the map in a logical manner. My driver was a young chap called Alex who could barely mask his disgust as I opened the door before he knocked. Although to be frank, DPD are so much better than the competition, I’d happily sign for the package by being kicked in the balls and spat in the face.
Zelda is excellent, although I am feeling weirdly guilty about not finding it to be quite as good as everyone else is. I don’t know, all I’m saying is that I just don’t think it’s mankind’s single greatest cultural achievement. And climbing in the rain is total bollocks. Bomberman is better than the internet would have you believe, where the main complaint seems to be that it costs the amount of money that games do. I’ve played 1, 2 Switch for the best part of an hour. I wasn’t going to get it but totally panicked at the last moment and stumbled into a shop spilling money over the counter. It seems fun, although I still can’t believe that someone has rubber stamped that name. Minigames where you look like you’re vigorously tossing someone off are one thing, but there really is no excuse for a clumsy, horribly punctuated name like that. You are reading JollyNiceSoup.
There’s loads of stories circulating at the moment that the left controller doesn’t work and that the dock scratches your screen and that the whole machine was somehow implicated in 9/11. These kind of horror stories are par for the course this early on in a machines lifespan. I’m not too worried at the moment. I’m more concerned about how I’m going to feed my family for the rest of the month.