Robert Stoume wanted to make sure that he had plenty of time to play with his brand new PlayStation 4 on Friday, so he asked for the day off.
The 29-year-old John Deere assembly technician was one of millions across the country who waited in line for the much anticipated midnight release of the PlayStation 4, Sony’s latest generation of gaming consoles and successor of the PlayStation 3.
The competition, Microsoft’s Xbox One, which was announced in May, is set to launch at midnight Nov. 22.
Stoume planned to be in line at GameStop’s North Augusta location, among his fellow gamers, by 11:30 p.m. Thursday. Having participated in several midnight launches before, including the release of the PlayStation 3, Stoume said he knew just what to expect.
“There are all kinds of people there, so I’ll talk to the people around me to pass time,” he said. “I never try to be the first one in line because you’ll get it regardless. Sometimes they’ll even have a display set up where people can play games on the new systems to test them out while they wait. I expect to play it for a few hours when I get home. ”
In Aiken, Bryan Adams waited to claim his new system at GameStop on Whiskey Road. The 23-year-old, who also works at the store, said he has noticed a rise in popularity with regard to midnight launches.
After paying for his PlayStation 4 three months in advance, Adams said he has been anxiously awaiting the release of the system.
“You’ll see casual gamers and hardcore gamers out there,” he said. “We’ve got some kids that are maybe 17 or 18 years old. I’ve even seen people as old as 40 or 45 out there waiting for the same thing.”
In order to meet the demand of the new gaming consoles, some area retail stores have implemented new policies to streamline the midnight launch process. Best Buy, for example, has introduced a system of two lines – one for customers with reservations and one for those without – to eliminate confusion.
“The night of the release, we will only file so many in at a time,” said Ellis Hanks, the general manager of Best Buy on Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway. “We’re not going to let them come through all at once. And as we close each night, we try to talk to the crowd and try to identify the first person in line and explain the process to the crowd.”
Over the years, Hanks said midnight launches have taken on more of a party-like atmosphere. Stores now play music and offer food and drink to the anxious gamers.
“We make it a big event,” Hanks said. “We have a dedicated sales team that has gone through weeks of training leading up to this day so that they are able to speak to the abilities of the systems and what the benefits are. We want to make sure they get the same level of support that they would get on any other day, but with a twist.”
Brian Dawson, of Augusta, said despite owning all of the current major gaming systems, he will sit out for the launch of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The first batch of newer consoles, he said, tend to have buggy hardware, and he would prefer to wait a year until the price of games drop.
The avid gamer said he understands the excitement of waiting in line to be one of the first with the new console, though.
“It’s like when a big movie comes out,” he said. “You don’t want to have your friends watch the big movie first because they can spoil it for you or tell you that it’s good. You want to be the person that’s there and sees it.”
Heather Bennett, the electronics department manager at the Walmart in Evans, said console launches have become somewhat of an art form under her watch.
“It’s second nature to me,” she said. “I’ll entertain the customers and do trivia. We’ll have cake and all kinds of refreshments. I always try to outdo myself each year.”
Bennett said Walmart faces a unique problem in that the store is open 24 hours. While other retailers allow customers to form lines outside of their locked doors, Walmart has to corral gamers near the store’s layaway counter.
The location may prove beneficial to those purchasing the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One now that Walmart will allow customers to immediately place the items on layaway.
“This allows for customers to keep the system that they’ve waited in line for while allowing them to pay on a more flexible schedule,” said Jessica Albright, the electronics zone manager. “They can do it all right there on the same register.
But the question remains: PlayStation 4 or Xbox One?
“Cost is going to be a big factor this time around,” said Robert Steele, the manager of Level Up Game Center. “(The PlayStation 4) is going to be about $100 cheaper and about $10 cheaper for an online subscription. From what I’ve heard, in terms of power, they are almost identical.”
Steele said both companies will push the entertainment features of the consoles more than the gaming aspects, calling the next-gen systems “the media center of the household.”
Though he expects to own both consoles by the year’s end, Steele said you won’t find him waiting in line for their release.
“There are just so many ways to order them now,” he said. “I chose to order mine, so it will be sent to my house the following week. Some people just prefer to play it right then.”