When he was a child, David Wales would wait in line with one of his parents as the clock approached midnight, so he could be among the first to get his hands on the newest gaming console.
“I’ve been playing games since I was 4. … It’s just something I’ve always done and feels like something I’m always going to do,” Wales, 34, of Texas, said of getting the gaming systems right when they release.
But this year, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Wales bought his console online and picked it up at a brick-and-mortar location to avoid waiting in hourslong lines.
The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X consoles are the first to be released by Sony and Microsoft, respectively, in more than half a decade. With the coronavirus forcing people into isolation and hungry for new entertainment, the launches appear to have come at an ideal time — especially as new surges in cases appear across the country.
“Most people shouldn’t be going out to bars and hanging out and whatnot,” Wales said. “So gaming offers that opportunity to connect people socially.”
While the Xbox Series X was available to purchase in stores, Sony decided to launch the PlayStation 5 exclusively online Thursday to avoid potential coronavirus spread among an in-person crush of consumers attempting to buy the system.
Sony urged customers not to “plan on camping out or lining up at your local retailer on launch day in hopes of finding a PS5 console for purchase,” according to a statement from Sony Interactive Entertainment communications director Sid Shuman. “Be safe, stay home, and place your order online.”
But that warning didn’t stop Xbox Series X customers from heading out when the console went on sale Tuesday. On social media, people shared images and stories of waiting in line to get their hands on the newest console. However, stores are reportedly carrying a limited number of consoles.
Historically, the first batch of consoles from any company can be mired with frustrating and, occasionally, unplayable bugs and other glitches, leaving some gamers hesitant to plunk down hundreds of dollars for what could be a flawed product on launch day.
Wales recalled previous glitches in early consoles, such as the “Red Screen of Death” on the PlayStation 2, which was a screen that would appear if an owner inserted an unreadable disc, and the “Red Ring of Death” on the Xbox 360, when the light around the start button would turn red, indicating the console had a major hardware error.
Some on social media had shared alleged issues with their new consoles. Some shared videos alleging their Xbox Series X was running loudly or that they were having issues getting their disc drive to accept the disc — standard launch-day bugs that can sometimes drive players away.
“We take all product safety reports seriously and our products meet or exceed industry standards. Findings from our initial investigations do not align with some of the claims being broadly reported, however we are in the process of investigating further," a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email to NBC News.
By Friday, at least one bug had been reported with the PlayStation 5, in which games would get stuck in the download queue. According to IGN, which reported the glitch, the only apparent way to fix the bug is a factory reset, which reverts the device to its original factory settings. Sony has yet to address the bug, according to IGN.
“When you’re an early adopter, that generally goes across all tech. You’re generally used to and already accepting that there’s going to be flaws or there’s going to be hiccups,” Wales said.
However, if the consoles’ preorder sales are any indication, it appears gamers are putting fears of launch-day bugs out of their minds. In October, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan said the PlayStation 5 preorders sold as many consoles in the United States in the first 12 hours as the PlayStation 4 did in its first 12 weeks of sales, according to Reuters. Sony declined to specify how many preorders were sold. Microsoft did not immediately return a request for its number.
“There's always a risk factor in buying a company's first product run, but these companies have been in the game a long time,” said Laine Nooney, an assistant professor of media and information industries at New York University. “Sony and Microsoft are aware that a reputation for bugs can ruin word of mouth and are likely to be on top of any potential problems.”
Even with the apprehension surrounding launch-system glitches, on social media, fans like Tim Gettys, who took the plunge and purchased the consoles, were mostly gushing.
“Today we got our FOURTH generation Xbox. Don't mind me...just having a moment. I freaking love video games and I love that just thinking about them can make me emotional,” tweeted Gettys, co-founder of online entertainment company Kinda Funny. “Here is to another amazing console cycle.”
Fans who bought the Xbox Series X said they couldn’t put down the controller.
“Been playing the Xbox series X most the day, I absolutely love it runs so smooth and everything looks so clean, you don’t really notice till you get a new console but now it’s time to watch Howls Moving Castle,” another person tweeted.
Those who purchased the PlayStation 5 said their weekends would be spent getting acquainted with the new console.
“Woo! PS5 is here and my PS4 data is currently transferring over! Can’t wait to start by playing Spider-Man!” tweeted another, referring to the highly anticipated PlayStation 5 game Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales.