What’s in a Console Launch?

The systems, games, and memories of a new console.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 11/11/2014 12:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Console launches are something else. Months of rabid anticipation all lead up to a single day or night where fan dreams will either be fulfilled or come crashing back down to reality. Some people line up for days on end just to be first (or one of the first) to snag a new system before anyone else. Others camp their front porches awaiting the arrival of the deliveryman with their new console in tow. Will it wow? Will it fail? Like Schrodinger’s cat, the truth exists somewhere in the middle until a system actually comes out of its box.

In the days before the ubiquity of the Internet, anyone who wanted information on new systems had to get a hold of magazines like Nintendo Power, GamePro, or Electronic Gaming Monthly (to name a very few) for any sort of previews. Not to take away from the present day at all, but there was a greater sense of mystery when the printed page was the only source for gaming news. Consoles like Nintendo 64, for example, promised 3D graphics, but the screen grabs fans were treated to could hardly capture the true magnitude of that incoming polar shift. By the time I finally sat down in front of a TV with the N64’s triple-pronged controller in my hands, I realized that Nintendo Power only scratched the surface of what Super Mario 64 was really all about.

It was sort of magical, really. These wonder boxes would come after a few years, always touting something bigger and better for players to experience. Filling in the blanks with imagination and just a dash of wishful thinking made an excruciating wait just a little more tolerable. Now, consoles are almost an open book before launch day. Previews, videos, and more are all at the tips of fan fingers, ready for the taking. From features to the games themselves, players have a better idea than ever of what’s waiting for them in the box, but even still, nothing compares to finally playing with the thing in real life.

Perhaps no better example of this is when Wii finally was released into the wild. Nintendo had shocked everyone with its “motion controls,” but no one quite knew what to expect until going hands-on with Wii. After a few rounds with Wii Sports, though, it became abundantly clear why Nintendo decided to bank on such an unorthodox control setup. The sensation of learning to play in an all-new way, of having the rug ripped out from underfoot, that is what makes console launches special. Game systems are unlike most other electronics in that at their core, they’re fun machines. They’re a means of escaping from reality. They’re the ultimate storytellers. They’re an irresistible time killer. They’re a fun way to hang with pals. They’re a million different things to a million different people.

A console launch means that a new friend is on the way. A collection of circuits and wires that will show the player something they’ve hopefully never seen before, something that will shock and astound them. There are letdowns, of course. Not many people were floored the first time they plugged Steel Diver into a 3DS. More people were disappointed than elated after giving Red Steel a whirl. Mach Rider rolls more eyes than tires, all these years later. The misfires happen. Still, for every weak console launch lineup, there are Super Mario Worlds and Twilight Princesses. Games that define a generation, or just leave the player slack-jawed and filled with wonder. Console launches are moments where anything is possible, and indeed, at times they make the impossible reality. So here’s to the new kids on the block: may you forever keep on blazing new trails, and bringing new memories.

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