Diablo Diehards: Blizzard Fans Brave Late Night Launch
How the diabolic game managed to create retailer heaven
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The queue didn't look like much at first. It had reportedly started on Friday, the work of a few brave men and a tent, but by 10pm last night it snaked from Oxford Street's HMV and down Adam And Eve Court, the crowd penned in by barriers and politely fielding questions from games journalists.
There were over 8000 midnight launches globally for the game, and over 2 million pre-orders. It's not many franchises that can bring thousands of people out into the streets, especially in the age of Amazon and downloads, but Diablo III proved that retail still has something to offer the faithful.
Take Rory Sweeney, skate park owner and hardened series fan, who had made the trip from Donegal.
"There's no Collector's Editions available in Ireland, so I thought might as well just take a trip," he explained. "We were only waiting ten or eleven hours so..."
"In the rain," interjected his sister, Orla, pointedly.
"I wouldn't queue up for anything else, no way," continued Rory. "I came here because of the Collector's Edition because I wanted to see what the launch party was like."
Some of those at the front on queue - one that dwarfed that of the PlayStation Vita event a few months earlier - made it into the store as a fiery giant countdown ticked until launch. Inside comedian for hire Iain Lee grilled the developers, senior world designer Leonard Boyarsky and lead technical artist Julian Love, and hyped up the fans, who clutched their goodie bags close.
One member of HMV staff seemed bemused, teasing one of the attendees as they waited. "Why didn't you just buy it on Amazon?"
Ben Keane had only travelled 20 minutes to make it to the event, but thought it was important to support retail. He admitted to being really worried by the recent GAME situation, and what it would mean for the industry.
"Retail is still a big part of the industry, it was quite stressful that the biggest retailer in our country could have just vanished"
Ben Keane, fan and UK developer
"That stressed me out a bit, because I was worried about the loss of diversity, of people being able to get to the games. Because retail is still a big part of the industry, it was quite stressful that the biggest retailer in our country could have just vanished, so we would have had to go to supermarkets to get games. Then the titles that are made in our country a lot, like double-A titles, just get kind of squeezed out of the whole thing."
If they sound like wise words, that's because Keane is actually a games developer with 6 years experience at Electronic Arts and Headstrong Games.
"It's important to keep having these things I think, it's important to show people that retail still has something. I'm a firm supporter of digital download, but it's nice to still have the option."
The crowd was what you might expect. Mainly male, mainly in their twenties, and all dedicated to Blizzard.
If you'd arrived on Monday afternoon you might have spotted a surprisingly large number of teenage girls waiting patiently, momentarily confusing the PRs readying the Diablo event, but it turned out Jessie J was also holding an event at the store that day.
Taya Beleanina wasn't a Jessie J fan, but hadn't been one of the lucky group to make it into the store for the countdown. She wasn't worried.
"I've been waiting for it for such a long time it feels like it needed a bit of a ceremony to actually get it."
The only other game she would have queued for was Mass Effect, she said, but her plans fell apart when GAME did.
"They were going to have the launch and then it wasn't happening," she explained. "I'd be sad if they stopped doing things like this, it just adds a bit of extra fun, especially for fans of franchises."
"This launch is a culmination of many years of hard work by our development team, and many years of passionate, dedicated support from gamers around the world"
Mike Morhaime, Blizzard
Even as the clock ticked down and the developers began their long shift of signing copies of the game more and more people seemed to be joining the queue, knowing they'd missed the festivities but not really caring. Amazon might be able to get you the game fast and cheap, but it can't hand out goodie bags. A digital download might be convenient, but no developer is going to sign it for you.
A boy with bright pink hair, one of the first to make it to the tills, wandered by. Asked about the launch he just shook his head.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I'm so tired, I was one of the first ..." Did he want to head home and play the game?
"Actually, I just want to sleep."