Pop Cultured: Oxford GameStop mastering the art of the midnight release
by Bobby Bozeman
rbozeman@annistonstar.com
Nov 18, 2011 | 5504 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For many lined up at the GameStop at the Oxford Exchange on Nov. 10, the wait for Bethesda’s highly anticipated game “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” had been excruciatingly longer than the six hours some spent waiting in line to buy the game at midnight.

That wait was officially kicked off in December 2010 when Todd Howard, Skyrim’s director and the general face of Bethesda, announced Skyrim along with showing a teaser for the game.

However, unofficially, the wait had begun as early as March 2006 when the fourth game in the series, “The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion” was released. “Oblivion,” which won many Game of the Year awards in 2006, was seen as both a step forward and a step back for “The Elder Scrolls” series, and speculation had been running rampant as to both the setting and style of the next installment.

Anticipation was heightened even more after the release of the critically acclaimed “Fallout 3,” one of the few non-“Elder Scrolls” games developed by Bethesda since the release of “The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.”

And with just over an hour left to wait, the “Elder Scrolls” and Bethesda faithful in Calhoun County had crammed into GameStop. But then again, this was already the second time that week the store had been opened for a midnight release.

“We’ve always done the midnight releases on huge titles,” said Chad Blakemore, the store manager at the GameStop in Oxford. “I can remember back as far as when ‘Halo 2’ released. I was working at the (GameStop) in the Quintard Mall. It was a huge event, much larger than this, but it was ‘Halo 2.’ We’ve been doing midnight releases ever since, but this year has had more midnight releases than any year I’ve ever seen.”

Just a few days prior, Blakemore had the store’s doors open again as the rest of the shopping center was quiet and all but abandoned. That time it was for another highly anticipated game, “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3.”

“Most titles we get around 20-30 people. This is actually probably not going to be anywhere near what we’re going to have,” Blakemore said while motioning toward the already cramped GameStop store. “Most people will show up around 11:30 to 12. We’ll have a few stragglers afterwards. For ‘Modern Warfare 3,’ we actually had over 200 people.

“If this gets much larger, I’m going to have to ask people to step outside. ‘Modern Warfare 3’s’ was actually lined up to the end of the building and wrapped around the building.”

There is more to do than just wait. Many fans discussed strategies and play styles they planned on using for the game’s wide-open world where you are literally set free to do what you will. There is a main quest line in Bethesda’s games, but following it is strictly optional, and it’s the little quests and various competing joinable factions that really breathe life into the huge worlds of “Fallout’s” Wasteland and “The Elder Scrolls’” Tamriel.

Other fans said they had purposefully avoided any news about the game other than the trailer and general announcement in order to further add a sense of wonder and discovery to a game series that is known for its elements of exploration.

Blakemore had even set up a trivia game to keep patrons entertained while they waited on the clock to strike midnight. The first correct answer to each “Elder Scrolls”-based question was rewarded with a Skyrim sticker.

“‘Halo 2’ was just the start,” said Blakemore. “‘Black Ops,’ ‘Modern Warfare 2,’ ‘Halo 3,’ ‘Gears of War 3.’ I mean massive, massive events. I mean, for ‘Modern Warfare 3,’ we had laser tag out in the parking lot.

“Me and the assistant manager even faced off against the guys who were running the laser tag and ended up beating them. We had five TVs set up in here where people could play the multiplayer before the game actually released.”

Bobby Bozeman is an entertainment columnist for The Star. Follow him on Twitter @Bozeman_Star.
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Pop Cultured: Oxford GameStop mastering the art of the midnight release by Bobby Bozeman
rbozeman@annistonstar.com

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