Why Midnight Launches Are A Waste Of Time

The iPhone 5c and 5s land in Australia tomorrow, with Apple stores opening promptly at 8:00am. Despite being one of the biggest tech launches of the year, no midnight launches have been scheduled locally. Clearly the consumer interest is there, so why isn't Apple opening its doors at the witching hour? The answer is simple: it chose to be sensible instead.

Photo: Getty Images

Midnight launches have fallen from favour in recent years and we can't say that we mourn the decline. While it seems like a fun idea on paper, they're actually a waste of time for everyone involved. Allow us to explain.

Earlier in the week, the hotly anticipated Grand Theft Auto V was unleashed on the gaming masses. Unlike Apple, EB Games and JB Hi-Fi chose to hold a string of midnight launches up and down the country. More than 300 stores were open for business at 12am with free GTA V posters, burrito eating competitions and a misguided fake cocaine stunt adding to the fanfare.

Two of our colleagues headed into the fray to pick up copies of their own — but neither of them actually played the game when they got home.

"I don’t think I've ever come home from a midnight launch and played the game I've just bought. I usually just go to bed," Kotaku editor Mark Serrels admitted.

According to our publisher Danny Allen who also snapped up a copy, the midnight launch was roughly comparable to most wedding nights — "the sex usually doesn't happen because you're too exhausted".

So if you don't even play the game, what's the point of attending? We've heard people say it's all about the sense of excitement, but we're talking about lining up for hours in the dead of night. What's so exciting about that? It can also be potentially dangerous if you happen to live in a rough area, as one North West London man unfortunately learned.

If anything, attending a midnight launch makes you the lowest slave of consumerism — the attendees literally cannot wait an extra eight hours to slap down their hard-earned cash for something that's usually overpriced anyway.

This is especially idiotic when it comes to video games because they depreciate very quickly. In a few months you'll be able to snap up the game for 20 or 30 percent off the current asking price. We understand that some people might not want to wait that long, but rushing out to pay full whack at midnight is clearly ridiculous.

Midnight launches are also pretty pointless from the retailer's end. Any product that justifies holding a midnight launch is going to sell like hot cakes anyway — so why fork out on additional staff wages and superfluous storefront trappings? We hate to think how much EB's extensive launch festivities cost. The stock would have moved just as quickly the next morning (this was a GTA game after all). Simply put, the extra hype that a midnight launch brings is in no way needed to sell the product.

Doubtlessly we'll continue to see the midnight launch plod along for a few more years but it's days are fortunately numbered.

Have you ever attended a midnight launch for a new product? How did you find the experience? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.


Comments

    I suspect midnight launches are mostly aimed at the younger demographic, and as someone who only recently stopped counting myself as part of that group I can tell you that a great many of them do in fact play the games immediately after coming home with them, sometimes even making a "launch night party" of it.

    All your other points still stand, and the value of getting to play 8 hours sooner is pretty questionable, and the sales would still be made in the morning without the midnight launch, but there certainly are a lot of younger (and probably at least some older) people who are happy and excited to do so.

      Midnight launches tend to be more popular for things like World of Warcraft, simply because an 8 hour advantage in an almost empty new game world does let you get a step up on everyone. Lets not forget however that apart from potentially getting a Server first, everyone catches up by the end of the week.

      For something like GTA V, I went on a bit of an internet embargo while I was at work on Tuesday. Helped me stay away from any potential spoilers and anything that might make me too excited to work.... (or too depressed that I wasted my money)

      close

      the correct answer is that Chris Jaeger is thinking incorrectly from the POV of the customer, in which case he is correct in saying its a waste of time

      However the reason Midnight launches happen is because:
      1) it drives hype which leads to demand
      2) to cater for hardcore fans which drives loyalty
      3) some people do stay up all night
      4) Why risk other retailers stealing your business the next morning when they are all open?
      5) similar to 4, you lock in sales at the inflated prices

    I've never been to a midnight launch...but I can vouch for the "no sex on your wedding night". We both rolled into bed at 3am and promptly feel asleep!

      Well, you're married, so no sex on your.. well, ever, is a given :P

        I still have sex and am married, so there are exceptions to that rule. Granted, not with my wife, but still.

          Your hand doesn't count.

    I think midnight launches are (can be?) fun. It's not just about getting the product, and it's not just about having a pre or post-launch party, it's about chatting with fellow fans, getting some freebies, and hanging out in a store at midnight when they're normally shut. A bit childish sounding, yes, but it can be fun.

    All valid points....however, i think midnight launches are something that stems more from having a strong brand loyalty, and less about getting the product. Thats why its more about the standing in lines, and the song and dance that takes place leading up to it, then the actual transaction of the buying it. The reason Apple has done a midnight launch, is because they now just are releasing an improvement on an existing product. When/if they release something different or exciting, they will do it again.

    On the note about paying the wages etc for a midnight launch, i would see this as being a more of a marketing budget then a normal operations expense. The hardcore fans will come and buy. The rest will wait til the next day or the weekend etc. There is a quite a bit of value that can come from nurturing this type of value. That, and im sure some tired weary eyed, fans might end up spending some money on TVs whilst in the moment.

    Whilst we are on the topic of selling games....i dont think you should look EB games as a case for anything marketing or making retail sense. They are a multinational organisation paying a fraction of what local retailer (who purchase from Australian distributors) pays. They have larger margins, and most of that flows out of the country to their parent subsidiary. If you look at most of the individual stores, in major retail shopping centres, i really doubt they report any really profit in Australia. Then again, i would love to be proven wrong.

    I picked up my PSP at a midnight launch and played it until about 4am. Hockey practice (that's ice hockey, not this namby pamby field hockey crap) at 630 was a bit rough.

    Why so much hate against midnight launches and their attendees? People go to conventions to meet like-minded and it is a similar thing with this launches. Go with some friends and/or make new ones there, enjoy the experience and have fun. It is a free choice people make, it might sound stupid to others but there is no reason to write in such a condescending tone about it.
    The quoted Mark Serrels stated that " I just like getting the game! I like the excitement." And that sounds like a good enough reason!

    Midnight launches are all just a way of getting people to pre-order the big title games.
    There's also a sense of community and belonging which people get out of going to them.

    Dont be a high and mighty prick with the 'slaves to consumerism' or 'they depreciate.' People go for the experience and they want the game then. Nothing wrong for not waiting 6 months until something is cheaper to buy it. Games are now a social experience, with friends and online. People want to be part of that. It's strongest when the games are brand new.

    I went to mid night launches for MW2 and Blops. The shop was a couple minute drive away. I got the games and was playing with in an hour.

    This was before I either had the internet to, or regularly did download games instead of buying. So generally now if I can play immediately I will pre-load and fire it up when it unlocks.

    I do get shitty when some games content can't be preloaded. Looking at you EA.

    Now I'd never go, but I don't blame people for doing it. Hell if I had a console and wanted this, I'd have gone.

    I did once have them give me the normal retail version of a game, not the version I was meant to get for my pre-order. Luckily I lived near the shop and got back there before the shut for the night. They seemed pissed at me for returning it.

    Then that one or the next you come home, installing from CDs takes ages which was a pain. Then there was updates which were slow as crap because everyone was doing them. So that kind of put me off it.

    They may not utilise the product straight away, but at least they're not taking time off work to get their hands on it. They can use it from when they wake up rather than queuing up at that time in the morning.

    One Word. Fun! It's exciting because you meet a like minded group of people. You make friends, chat and be human.

    "So if you don’t even play the game, what’s the point of attending? We’ve heard people say it’s all about the sense of excitement, but we’re talking about lining up for hours in the dead of night. What’s so exciting about that?"

    Why go anywhere with that attitude.

    Midnight launches aren't about being sensible - as they clearly aren't.

    EB don't mind throwing money away, it's not theirs - it's their shareholders, and they throw enough away in rent costs anyhow. A mere drop in the ocean, regardless as to how pointless their over spending is.

    It's all about the event, the feeling of being a part of a community, the feeling of providing support to ones' preferred manufacturer / developer. It's a matter of pride.

    People want to believe that they're so devout, and so loyal to the franchise / brand, that they were one of only a few (thousand) that is dedicated enough to attend an otherwise pointless midnight launch event. They are the true fans. And their baggy eye lids prove it.

    It's tantamount to wearing a t-shirt with the name of your favourite band on it, or buying a pair of jeans primarily for the label. But instead of only money, they're throwing away their time and convenience too.

    It's all very silly and much of it is due to consumer desire which is fuelled to dizzying heights with majestic marketing and PR. What else explains Apples success.

    In regards to Games, paying $80 for the best game just to see it drop in price over the next few months hurts me too much to do it again.

    GTA V seems like it's worth the money, a great investment, but even so it will drop in price, and there are so many other good games to play in the meantime.

      Or maybe, I just wanted to play the game. I had a few drinks with my mates, went by the JB launch in world square, went back home with a group of us, stayed up all night getting plastered and playing GTA V.

      Don't say its all very silly, you just come off like a high and mighty douchebag.

        Yeah I did report this message as I don't think that it's appropriate to make personal attacks.

        It seems as if Kotaku disagrees.

        Good for you.

          There's a chance I may have been a tad overzealous in my wording, so I'm sorry about that. But nonetheless, I don't think it's fair at all to compare it to band t-shirt wearers or buying a brand for the label - there's no posing involved in wanting to get a product early in order to actually enjoy it.

    I thought it was about feeding the hype, implied scarcity and getting a jump on local competition. At 8am the next day there's often JB HiFI, EB Games, Target and Harvey Norman all within walking distance, by opening at midnight, you've effectively got a few hundred sales in the bag before the fight for the wallet begins.

    So I personally know some people that went to the extent of taking a weeks holiday for the release of this game. They went to the midnight launch, went home and played it till dawn... and then kept playing it. Some say that's sad. Those same people probably never get excited about anything this much, ever. I say they're the sad one's.

    I went to one WoW midnight launch after discussing with online guildies. I only did that once.

    Queuing up for seven hours on a day off to get an iPhone 4 was a big waste of time and I said "never again".

    " We’ve heard people say it’s all about the sense of excitement, but we’re talking about lining up for hours in the dead of night. What’s so exciting about that?"

    Whereas doing the same thing to get into any number of "exclusive" nightclubs is a perfectly legit activity.

      You cant go to the nightclub the next morning :-P

    More than anything it probably comes down to the hotdog stand principal.
    If you're major competitor isn't opening its doors until 8:30 the next morning and you're open at 12am for launch, you're getting a huge rush of sales before he even gets started. I've never personally been to a midnight launch, but i'm assuming its people lined up and checkouts constantly beeping, the sales made in those couple of hours are probably the equivalent of a couple of weeks 'normal' business.
    maybe its not the good for the buying, but you can bet its great for the retailer. and they're doing it tough these days

      If your major competitor opens at 8:30am and you've opened at midnight, bombarded with customers and sell out, then your major competitor who opens at 8:30 will then get all the customers who waited as they're the ones with stock left, and will also probably get the impulse buys of others games / music / TVs etc while they are in there. The midnight launch isn't going to drastically improve the sales for the day. It's just for the benefit of the consumer not the retailer.

        It's just for the benefit of the consumer not the retailer.

        Retailers do things for the benefit of the retailer, not the consumer.

    If you exhausted at midnight then you're not the target customer obviously (and why goto a midnight launch if you are the exhausted at midnight type).

    Perhaps should have got one of the kids in line at midnight to write the article instead of an old fart (even the fartitude is in mind/attitude, not body).

    And Jamie Parris.. if they're selling out at the midnight launch they're idiots. I've never been to one that has sold out. At the very least they should have pre-order numbers.

    I don't know why I keep reading opinion pieces, the commentators get me almost as worked up as the article!

      Except this is positioned as factual, not as an opinion piece, see:
      "Midnight launches have fallen from favour in recent years and we can’t say that we mourn the decline. While it seems like a fun idea on paper, they’re actually a waste of time for everyone involved." - [citation needed]

      Then he quotes Mark, who has a young family and a fulltime 9-5 job (pointless to ask), and Danny who doesn't play it. From there, he makes the causal link that 2 people saying they don't play it is the majority.

      "Doubtlessly we’ll continue to see the midnight launch plod along for a few more years but it’s days are fortunately numbered." - [citation needed]

      "If anything, attending a midnight launch makes you the lowest slave of consumerism" - An idiotic, rose-tinted sentiment that essentially equates to "if you enjoy a product and purchase it even close to the release date because you want to enjoy it you're a consumerist slave"

      "This is especially idiotic when it comes to video games because they depreciate very quickly" - Missing the point of entertainment entirely.

      I'd continue to deconstruct this, but as you rightly put, it was a stupidly thought out opinion piece posited as fact. Poor form @chrisjager

      Last edited 23/09/13 7:59 pm

    Basically, @chrisjager is an old man who likes to make opinionated rants akin to fact.

    Also, way to miss the point on why they even exist. Leave the reporting on midnight launches who to someone who actually understands the concept. See above for some of the many reasons why this article was 'misguided'.

    Last edited 23/09/13 8:00 pm

    I've only ever attended 2 midnight releases, GTA was one of them. Our local game shop is in a town of 16000 so we arrived at 11:50, lined up and were out with our copies by 10 past. If I was in a big city where people were lining up for an hour, or even longer. No way would I bother.

    Myself and friends then all went back to one guy's house and played it for a good few hours before calling it a night, there was around 150-200 people there, and 90% of them were doing the same.

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