Much to the delight of hockey-crazed gamers in Toronto, EA Sports’ NHL 12 video game officially hit the shelves on Tuesday.
For those enthusiastic enough to wait in line for an early copy, Gamestop at 267 Yonge St. was home to a Midnight Madness release party on Monday night for the highly anticipated title.
The game’s annual release draws a lot of attention considering Canada’s nationwide adoration for NHL hockey, and this year may have established an all-new level of hysteria.
“We had over 160 pre-orders for [NHL 12] to make sure [fans] got a copy,” said Salina Dickson, assistant manager at Gamestop. “It was honestly one of the best release nights I’ve ever seen for this company.”
The Midnight Madness release party started at 9:30 p.m., with Toronto Maple Leafs sniper Phil Kessel in attendance for more than an hour.
Over 400 fans lined up outside the store waiting to pick up their copy of the game, available for PS3 and XBOX 360.
Once they got their hands on their copy, gamers had the opportunity to get an autograph from Kessel on a Gamestop-exclusive cover featuring Maple Leafs players rather than original cover-boy, Tampa Bay Lightning standout Steven Stamkos.
While Kessel’s appearance was the highlight of the evening, Gamestop and EA Sports had much more in store for local gamers celebrating NHL 12’s release.
“We did a tournament, a shootout with 16 players, where we chose contestants out of a hat and whoever won the shootout got a PS3 and a copy of the game,” said Dickson. “We handed out some jerseys and other game prizes too.”
Early evaluations from customers testing it from inside Gamestop implied that the game was a hit and that the little tweaks made by EA Sports since last year only made it better.
“I got into a goalie fight a little earlier which was pretty cool,” said Lorne Sigal, a student from Toronto. “The changes make the game more fun to play, you can hit guys over the boards into the bench now.”
The hype surrounding the NHL 12 release wasn’t limited to Gamestop.
Future Shop at Yonge and Dundas Square didn’t host an early release of the game, though it was in very high demand on Tuesday when the title was released.
“It overshadowed everything. It was basically the only video game we sold yesterday,” said Ryan Hethrington, an entertainment associate at Future Shop.