Ready to Enter the Vault- Fallout 3’s Midnight Launch in Rockville

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Wednesday, October 29, 2008

While plenty of games have had midnight launches over the past few years, Fallout 3’s was one of the bigger and more organized ones. With big chains such as Best Buy and Gamestop participating in these launches, a total of nearly 2,000 stores would end up being open for gamers to go and get the highly anticipated title the moment it went on sale. But while each store did their own thing, the flagship event was at the Best Buy in Rockville, Maryland, only a little ways away from Bethesda Game Studios’ main offices. This event offered not only demo kiosks and giveaways, but a chance to meet much of the development team and get signatures from key members such as director Todd Howard. And as I’m located only an hour or so away from Rockville, I took along my good friend Drew Bailey and checked out the launch.

Our night began earlier than expected, with traffic being rather light despite the rain. The information we had received on Friday said that events were going to begin at 10 PM with lines forming much earlier than that, and when we pulled up to the parking garage at the Rockville Best Buy the line was already going around the corner from the main entrance. Bethesda had a tent set up and a replica trailer with demo kiosks inside, but we were unable to get any pictures of the outside area due to the rain that would continue for the rest of the night. As we were there a little early, we decided to hit up the line and talk to a few people. This resulted in a rather lengthy conversation on everything from Warhammer to Dwarf Fortress (http://www.bay12games.com/dwarves/) and was definitely a sign that the crowd was comprised of some avid gamers as well as more casual ones.

A little before 10 PM I gave my contact a call and we were allowed inside to check things out. At this point the only people allowed in Best Buy were members of its staff, the numerous team members at Bethesda, and a few lucky people who had been waiting since much earlier in the day. Some of the key members of the Fallout 3 team were ready to begin signing posters and copies of the most recent OXM (which features a glowing review of their game), and there were numerous demo kiosks of the game set up with some very realistic statues set up next to them. In addition, at this event one of the local radio stations (DC101) was present and played music for the night while occasionally chiming in with comments. It doesn’t seem likely that the radio host actually knew that much about the game itself, but having music playing did help to break up some of the boredom that could have hit some people from waiting for so long.

Everything was handled very smoothly by both the staff at Best Buy and the organizers of the event in the time that led up to midnight, ensuring that lines to the autograph area were somewhat orderly and that time on the demo units were not hogged by people for too long. There was always something to watch, whether it was someone trying out the game for the very first time or a person asking the developers to sign his chest. At one point the timed lights in the Best Buy even went out, plunging the entire place in darkness. But as a whole, this is probably one of the best handled launches I’ve seen to date.

As the time hit 12:01 AM, the lines began to fill and people were finally able to purchase the game (see the pictures at the end to see who got to buy their copy first). Bethesda and Best Buy had put out a significant number of strategy guides earlier in the day, but they were snatched up and quickly became out of stock long before the last person had purchased their copy of the game. In the excitement that followed (especially as fans went to get copies of their newly purchased game signed by the team), I went off to conduct my interview with Bethesda marketing/public relations VP Pete Hines (which will be up on the site later in the week), and after that got the chance to talk to members of the Bethesda staff. We spoke to programmers and game testers (my apologies that I cannot remember all of your names), where we learned tidbits such as the DRM for the PC version (it will use a disc check) and how much testing was put in (the one guy we talked to had put 3,000 hours in as a tester). It was definitely nice to talk to many of the people who had been involved in the project, and proved enlightening for Drew and myself. I of course waited respectfully until the very end to buy my copy of the game.

I must applaud Bethesda, Best Buy, and the other companies involved in the handling of this event as they did a wonderful job. There were a ton of people at the event (look at the pictures of the amount of people inside and imagine that about double that amount was outside of the store), but everyone was respectful and waited patiently for the game to come out. Overall, it was a good sign of how much hype Bethesda has been able to create for Fallout 3 and is sure to help them secure even more sales. With the flagship event having gone so well, I’d definitely like to hear other’s opinions on how some of the other launches went. I’d like to thank the members of Bethesda for letting me speak to them, Laura Weir of Forty Seven Communications for organizing our involvement, and Joo Wochese of Ncompass for taking some of the aerial shots. Look for our interview with Pete Hines to be up soon as well as a full review of Fallout 3.

Photographs:
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One of the massive statues Bethesda had put out for the event.fallout2
The team gets prepared for their night of autographsfallout3
Some of the statues were eerily lifelike

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The team begins signing posters and copies of OXM for fans

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Another statue, in between the video highlight reels of the game that they had playing all night

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This smaller line was comprised of people who had gotten there extremely early, and they would end up being the first ones to buy the game

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Aerial shot showing people playing the demo kiosks

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This was just a small fraction of the people in the store at the time

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This version of the strategy guide, priced at $35, was sold out almost as soon as the game went on sale

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These three would be the first people able to buy the game

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The first official sale of Fallout 3 at the Rockville location (check out that limited edition tin!)

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VP of Public Relations/Marketing Pete Hines

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