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Post-coronavirus, it's not game over for video game launch parties

With the recent launch of "Pokémon: Violet and Scarlet," live video game events are proving they're still a fun time in a post-pandemic world. – Photo by Pokémon / Twitter

It may be hard to picture now, but there was a time when video game midnight launch parties were commonplace. In an era before social distancing, face masks and the word "corona" — apart from its association with a brand of alcohol — it seemed every store that sold video games had some sort of release event for eager fans awaiting the arrival of a new game.

Of course, in the last few years, this idea (alongside the majority of live events, as a whole, barring some motorcycle-centered exceptions) has taken a bit of a backseat as people attempted to contain the pandemic by staying home and avoiding large crowds.

Unfortunately, traditional parties in any capacity require both of those avoidant elements, so many stores began shuttering these once-beloved events out of concern for public safety.

As 2022 marked the third year of the pandemic, though, people began to gradually feel more comfortable with the idea of attending large social gatherings again. In turn, many stores began returning to their pre-pandemic tradition of hosting these game launch parties.

Chief among these were events held in commemoration of games released by the industry giant Nintendo at its flagship store, Nintendo NY, located in New York's Rockefeller Center.

Nintendo NY's midnight release events have had some notable moments in the past, like when former Nintendo of America COO Reggie Fils-Aimé greeted fans waiting in line at the store in preparation for the launch of the Wii U. But much like its game-selling competition, Nintendo only recently began to host these events again as restrictions loosened.

The first of these parties was in celebration of the launch of "Splatoon 3" back in September. More recently, though, swarms of fans waited with bated breath to hear about the company’s plans for its holiday titles, "Pokémon: Scarlet" and "Pokémon: Violet," regarding news of a potential midnight launch party.

This news eventually came in the form of a tweet published on November 9, which said the party would be open to those who RSVPed, which would be made available the following week.

I, like many Pokémon fans, was excited. I’d wanted to attend a local GameStop’s midnight launch for 2020’s "Animal Crossing: New Horizons," but as I’m sure you can tell by that launch year alone, those plans fell through. Needless to say, I was pumped to be surrounded by a large group of like-minded people, all excited to play the new entries in the beloved franchise, celebrating its arrival at its own company store.

At least, that’s how I think it would’ve been, had I actually been able to attend the event.

Don’t get me wrong — I had all the intentions in the world of going. But by the time I had gotten onto Nintendo’s RSVP page, all three party times (in an attempt to not have too many people in the store, three 1-hour time slots had been allocated between midnight and 2 a.m.) had filled up, leading to me jokingly asking on Twitter if anybody was interested in selling me their spot in line — I actually received a few, fair offers.

Ultimately, I ended up attending a launch party held by a GameStop not far from Nintendo NY. Although I’m sure the celebration at the flagship store would have been more intense, the GameStop party wasn’t without its own festivities, such as a store-wide Pokémon trivia competition and a tournament for the Pokémon spin-off fighting game "Pokkén Tournament," for which the prize was a $50 gift card for the store.

It may have felt like a watered-down version of what other fans were experiencing not even a mile away, but for what it was, I had a good time in the company of other fans. We were happy to welcome back the tradition of gathering to ring in the new arrival of a hotly anticipated game.

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