People wait in line because of scarcity; if you don’t wait in certain lines for certain amounts of time, you may not get the thing. Whatever the thing is. But the behavior of just sitting or standing around expectantly in some kind of order is usually rewarded with something you might not have gotten any other way. People give up time and energy because they think the thing at the end is worth it.
Bethesda turned that whole system on its head yesterday by offering what amounted to a virtual line that ended with very little information outside of a basic game reveal. Fallout 76 is coming, and a total of two million people watched a boring stream to learn this information a few seconds before the rest of the internet did.
The stream went on for 24 hours. A few things happened during the stream — remember when the balloons showed up? We were so young back then — but overall it was both a test of patience and a way for the publisher to build anticipation without having to do much of anything.
And it worked! We all paid attention. Bethesda asked for our time, the company wasn’t really going to do much to get it, but by gosh we were going to give it to them anyway, because a new game is coming!
I’m not even trying to be snarky about this, because the whole thing was goofy and no one was forcing anyone to show up. You could tune out and catch the reveal after it went live, which is what I did. I did pop into the stream once or twice just out of curiosity, so I’m certainly not here to throw any stones.
Because there’s also something fun in coming together with a big group of people to celebrate something goofy and nonsensical, especially when you know the rest of the group shares your enthusiasm for something. And in this case everyone was a fan of Fallout. If you weren’t ... what the hell were you doing there?
It was an effective and inexpensive publicity stunt to kick off the promotional campaign for a game that’s probably going to star in many more promotional events. Everyone knew the value was in the waiting itself; it wasn’t like people were waiting in line to get tickets to a concert that would sell out or buy a piece of electronics that was going into limited release.
The thing that was going to happen, whatever it was, would be made available to everyone almost instantly. Waiting just meant that you waited, and you shared the experience of throwing away some time on nothing. We live in a time when there are five-second trailers before the actual trailer to try to convince you not to skip ahead when you’re watching an ad through a streaming service. If Bethesda wanted to see how far they could push the edges in the other direction, who can blame them? After all, we showed up. And if you were angry, just remember: You got exactly what you signed up for.