Wrath of the Lich King is live and I'm sitting in a Denny’s uploading screenshots from one of the funniest launch events that I've had the opportunity to attend. After fifteen hours of ‘CE Camping’ in a Fry's parking lot in Anaheim, I've returned with 'phat lewts', new friends and a few great stories. Please bear with me as I attempt to share with you my day at the official WotLK launch event. I'm rather tired.
To be completely honest, I had no idea what to expect Wednesday morning when I started my, now epic, journey to Fry's. I knew there would be players already in line but there is no way I could have prepared myself for what John Fitch, who was at the front of the line told me. "Yeah I've been here since 9am PST on Tuesday. By the time I get into the store I will have been here around 39 hours ." said the Hello Kitty enthusiast that you'll hear all about as soon as I transcribe our full conversation. To make his wait a tad more bearable, anyone who asked about what he was doing was informed that he was waiting in line for the new Hello Kitty game. As you can imagine, John had his fair share of weird looks. At one point in the evening he gathered a mob of people to circle the building shouting "Hello Kitty! Hello Kitty!" Some of the things we gamers do to entertain ourselves…
Now camping out over night in a lawn chair is hardcore, but I'm not sure if it tops Eugene Gray who checked out of a hospital earlier in the day to come down and wait in line against doctors orders. Hardcore? Most certainly! That wasn't enough so he brought out his Frostmourne replica. More to come about this badass later as I also sat down with him to get the whole story.
It wasn't all fun and games. People were tired, hungry and ready to go home to start their journey into Northrend. We decided to help make the situation a little more manageable when we bought nine pizzas for those waiting in line. At this point I had met Humphrey Cheung, from Tom's Hardware, who took the pictures of the now famous "Allakhazam Pizza Raid". Until yesterday, I'd never seen nine pizzas disappear in forty five seconds. Isn't that an 'in real life' achievement?
Soon after the sun went down, everyone seemed to come out of hiding. By 8:30pm, the parking lot was a literal circus. In addition to thousands of eager fans, the world famous KROQ set up and had music blasting throughout the entire evening. Someone even brought down a projector and had Iron Man playing on the side of the building. Words can't explain how exciting the atmosphere was. Everyone waiting for the game went out of their way for each other. It was a community, nay, a big family, all waiting together, for Wrath of the Lich King.
Fortunately, I had the chance to sneak in early to interview Jeffrey "Tigole" Kaplan, the Game Director for Blizzard. Now, Jeff is sort of a hero of mine so this was exciting for me on both a personal and professional level. Part one of our two part interview with Jeff will be available on Friday so keep an eye out; he answered a lot of questions that the community has been asking.
After the interview with Jeff, we were informed that we were locked in Fry's and wouldn't be let out until the employees finished their closing duties. Locked inside a store with 183 Blizzard employees? That was fine with us! Our friend Humphrey from Tom's Hardware and I took the chance to explore and attempted to get 'l33t beta infoz' out of anyone we could. Unfortunately Fry's "security" team was on the ball -- so we didn't have much of a chance to do anything, except for wait for the doors to open.
When we were let out of our prison cell, it was almost show time. The tents were down and security was outside to keep the peace. One of Fry's reps in charge told me something along the lines of 'we're so screwed if people in line start moving forward. There is no way twenty of us can stop three thousand of you.' He was right but fortunately for him, the crowd was patient, and well behaved.
John Finch, who held the first spot in line, was let in before anyone else to shake hands with store management and have his picture taken by the press in attendance. Still holding his Hello Kitty sign, John was ready to grab his Collectors Edition that he'd been waiting to purchase for thirty nine, long hours.
The line started moving shortly after the formalities were done and over with. The crowd of thousands made its way to the back of the store to have their copies signed by over 140 World of Warcraft developers. Everyone was tired. They wanted to go home, and rightfully so. I stayed as long as I could, but when I left the store at 3:00am on Thursday morning, it was clear to me that Blizzard wasn't going home anytime soon.
For those of you around the globe who waited in line for the midnight release of Wrath of the Lich King, we'd love to hear your stories in our forums! Also, please check out our image gallery for the official launch event hosted by Blizzard.
Andrew "Tamat" Beegle