Halo 3: ODST - Reflections on a midnight launch

22nd September 2009 - Midnight launches come and go but if you’re lucky, the right one can yield rewards; swag, free loot and even the odd collectible item. The rest of the time though, waiting till the proverbial 12.01 am can be a tedious task of chatting up the local game staff and standing awkwardly in a queue with complete strangers. Capital cities usually yield the best finds while the major metropolitan stores can end up resorting to competitions of favouritism when two shops compete for customers in the same complex.

Last night Microsoft launched the much hyped pre-qual to Halo 3, “Halo 3: ODST“. I went along; to find out what all the fuss was about.

Now it should probably be said, I didn’t attend in the City, nor was I fortunate enough to witness the initial ‘launch’ on Sydney’s Cockatoo Island earlier in the year. No, instead humble as I am I made my way out into the night to one of the larger suburban outlets. The first thing I noticed was the distinct lack of people.

Flashback to almost exactly three years ago and the scene couldn’t have been more different.

Rabid fans were amassed outside the game store while a Master Chief ‘model’ walked up and down between the neighboring stores. It was a memorable moment, not least because I was paying over $200 to mount the Chiefs head on my mantle, but also because this game was a true sequel and one fans had been waiting a long time for. When management gets it right, couches are set inside the shops, free pizza is distributed and movie tickets to the adjoining cinema are handed out. Clearly this was what going out at midnight to buy videogames was all about. Halo 3 went down in the record books as the largest number of sales in launch week ever, that is, until Grand Theft Auto IV.

Now, while the official Guinness book of records seems to be keeping thinner these days, the content therein is at least diversifying, and video games in particular are racking up all sorts of records. Grand Theft Auto IV from Rockstar Games can attest to now trumping the mighty Microsoft as the largest number of launch week sales in the history of video games and rightly so. In Australia this was over eighteen months ago. I remember wishing in true fan boy style that a pseudo re-enactment of a riot or drive by was going to occur, so palpable were people’s expectations. When enough people turn up to a launch bound in a common knowledge, and just a little bit of guilt, you can almost have a party. When the staff are generous enough to open up the demo stations or hook up a Wii to pass the time between the two hours people tend to turn up, you can almost justify the amount of blatant sales pitch that get thrown at you.

Enter: ODST. Was Microsoft hoping that the love child of two different genres; survival horror and first person shooter would mix in the over saturated glut of law that is the Halo universe, or more likely was any console exclusive constructed by Microsoft an excuse to squeeze one more dollar from our pockets. In a year where even the almighty Blizzard can command midnight releases for their World of Warcraft expansions the consumers, it would seem, were having none of it. To put it lightly the Orbital Troopers did not make much of a shock.

Eight people turned up to the local midnight launch earlier this week. None of them looked like Master Chief. I was left with an ODST poster and some left over Halo 3 merchandise from three years ago. There was no pizza, no playing. I came, I saw, and I left feeling that a dead horse had just been flogged.

Only a few short weeks ago, a number of stores started ‘breaking street dates’ on Batman: Arkham Asylum. No one had to stay up till midnight and everyone got their game early.

While my local midnight launch was disappointing, All Age Gaming’s final verdict on Halo 3: ODST will be coming soon. In the meantime, let us know below how your midnight launch went if you got the chance to go to one.


Article written by Ian Crane