It's time! Find out what happened at the Nintendo sponsored midnight launch in London early this morning.
I've been writing for what used to be PGC since before the GameCube was launched. That time around I saw all of the pre-release material but didn't actually make it to the launch. That made this Wii launch my first, so it was exciting to go to cover the event even though I won't be buying one yet, mainly due to time constraints in the coming year.
Media were called to check in at 10pm that night. At this time people waiting for the Wii had been there for at least twelve hours. The earliest in fact arrived Tuesday evening. Earlier in the day two hundred wristbands were given out to people waiting, same as the number of Wiis that were available to people who hadn't pre-ordered. Names and photos were also taken down, and these would be matched up on the night to ensure that no one could steal a place. Due to the launch chaos in the US, Nintendo organized as much as possible to ensure a safe and fun launch for everyone, and to ensure that the event wasn't shut down by security. Around one quarter of the people waiting were behind a barrier in front of the store, and the rest were waiting from a door at the side of the building, trailing around behind it.
I collected my press pass from Nintendo and went back around to the front of the store to wait for something to happen. It was planned that sporting celebrities would arrive at 11pm, then the store would open and everyone could go inside to watch them play Wii Sports on stage, and finally at midnight the first Wii would be sold. While waiting I saw that David Yarnton, General Manager of Nintendo UK, was there to see how the launch would go. Of course it wasn't to schedule, and the Wii bus finally arrived around half an hour later than planned. Off the bus stepped Ian Wright - former footballer, Nell McAndrew – former Lara Croft model, Ricky Hatton – boxer and Pat Cash – former tennis player.
This is where I first experienced the paparazzi. They are very angry people, and rather rude actually. No wonder they're disliked, they were shouting and screaming for the sports stars to look at their camera, yelling for the Nintendo's own camera crew to get out of the way. It's surprising that they actually had time to take any photos. I managed to find a spot fairly near to the front squished in among the photographers and snap a few blurry pictures, but they quickly moved the celebrities into the store and drove the bus away.
They kept everyone waiting outside while they set up and let their own photographers take some photos, then they let the press in through the side. I dashed up the blue and white lit pathway to the stage to get a good spot for when they started playing. I got a place right at the front and here they had Nell McAndrew and Pat Cash compete in Wii Sports Tennis, then Ian Wright and Ricky Hatton for several rounds of Wii Sports Boxing. The Miis were designed to resemble Nell McAndrew and Pat Cash.
The first person in the queue was then brought up to the stage and introduced. It was announced that the first Wii would go on sale in five minutes time so everyone wandered over to the checkout area.
After the first Wii was handed over, the rest of the consoles were quickly sold. Nintendo UK claimed this morning that they were sold out in almost sixty seconds.
That was the Wii launch. There were midnight sales at other stores around the country but due to the Nintendo support this one had the most publicity. Today, Wiis are continuing to be sold everywhere so let's hope that some more arrive soon! My photos from the event can be found in the European Wii Launch event.