Kotaku has reported that retailer EBGames has called the launch of the Xbox One the ‘biggest launch in Australian gaming history’. While the photos in the article show long lines full of eager video game enthusiasts waiting to get their hands on the next generation of console gaming, the picture was very different in the nation’s capital.
I arrived at 9pm expecting hordes, but instead was met by four employees, and a guy that had come down from McDonalds during his break to “suss this shit out”. I smiled and nodded and then proceeded directly to the counter and handed over my receipt and Fast Pass. In return I was handed my copies of Forza 5: Limited Edition, Dead Rising 3, and (oddly) my Playstation 4 copy of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, along with a raffle ticket thats purpose at the time wasn’t entirely clear to me. Reassured I wasn’t going to have to stand around aimlessly for three hours I walked back home.
I returned at 11:45 expecting a bit more fanfare than earlier, but again was met with a scattering of people sitting in the adjacent food court, obviously there to pick up their consoles but somehow less excited than the random pimply McDonalds kid from before. I was at this stage still convinced there would be a late minute rush.
At about 11:55 the small gathering was called to the store by a rather loud young sales assistant who proceeded to tell us how the launch was going to work. Turns out that the raffle tickets that were distributed earlier were sorting mechanisms, Black for Day One, Blue for FIFA 14 edition and Yellow for the last minute orders. We proceeded to be lined up by colour the order in which we surrendered our receipts earlier in the evening. It all felt a little bit concentration camp, but at number two I was convinced it was the even numbers that would escape unharmed, while the odd numbers were taken out the back and disposed of.
We were waved into the store in twos and handed our consoles without fuss but also without fanfare. I walked out of the store happily brandishing one of the boxes that would sit under my TV for the better part of the next decade, but I couldn’t help but feel for the plight of Microsoft. Was it all that bad? Did the irrational early reaction to the Xbox One destroy its chances in the market? Was it going to be another Wii U? Going by the launches in other more major Australian cities the answer to all of those is a very hearty NO, but I couldn’t help but be disappointed that the ushering in of the next generation was less fanfare and more full-on fizzle, as happy as I was to have the console without the fuss of a crowd.