– “Despite the general consensus there were still whimsical deities I had not inadvertently pissed off.”
Morning had not come yet the sensation of feeling more awake had not been this powerful in weeks and no one had not been as eager to go into temporary slumber for the next hours just the same.
Little was known at that point the process would be repeated more than once, twice and possibly more times for no one knew exactly how many times this odd ritual was to be repeated. Like a time-loop that is still to reach its final world reset before coming to an end. Rarely would this person go to such lengths for a watch. But this was no ordinary watch. And this was more than telling the time.
On 2011 a certain visual novel company called Chunsoft hinted then later announced the sequel to the game 999 : Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors would be “Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward”. On February 28, 2012 a certain video game publisher called Aksys Games announced bringing the sequel outside of Japan, later revealing a rare official 999 watch to be included with the sequel pre-orders. At the moment a silent competition was set in motion – I was one of the participants. This is the story of one of the many fans who aimed for a 999 watch.
999 getting a sequel? “That’s amazing” – I thought. No, amazing was an understatement for the critically acclaimed 999 DS game that easily sold out when it first came out. I simply had to get the sequel after knowing there was going to be one. Like most people I waited for further news to be released to know from what exact provider to pre-order from.
The news were released early 2012 however no big news were released concerning what provider Aksys Games would be using for you see, previously 999’s pre-order watches had been bundled with the infamous video game retailer, GameStop. Now, Gamestop was similar to an annoying cousin in a family. One restrictively meets him in special family occasions then not before or after. I would have rather not dealt with Gamestop more than necessary but it was a dirt cheap price to pay to get the official 999 watch. So this was going to be it though not confirmed by far, it was a good bet as any to assume Gamestop would be working with Aksys Games. However, nothing is certain and this situation, soon to become a fierce completion, would concur with that.
Months went by and seeing the month of the official release dangerously drawing closer and closer and seeing no news brought concerns of something being definitely amiss. To explain this, it was similar to a minor problem an individual expects to eventually work itself out. Problems don’t tend to work themselves out, well, neither do puzzles, much less in this situation. Still in this situation waiting was all to be done. Or was that really the case?
Enter Murphy’s Law (and how I didn’t miss you)
You see, in theory waiting for further official news to be released before making a real decision was the most logical decision. After all, all future buyers had to know from what provider they had to pre-order from to make the first move. The possibility of no news being released after several months was out the question at that time. Information was crucial and without any the real solutions an alternative that surfaced was to blindly pre-order from several providers to cover the most ground as a desperate last resort to get the pre-order bonus. Even so this alternative was highly unpopular and only a small number of people did while everyone else normally waited for official news like regular people. Clearly this was sure to bite us all back like a hungry piranha.
Make no mistake. They were the lucky, the smart ones despite the plan being flawed it was better than no plan at all. Whoever had done so had thought three steps ahead. I was thinking only two at that moment or one and a half, plus maybe a few more fractions if we are feeling generous. Either way it was not enough. I was distracted, I got careless. It was more than that. In fact, I had theoretically flat feet in a race against time that had already both started and concluded without me and many even knowing. The invisible stopwatch had been marking “game over” in red letters all these time. The special bonus offer had already passed.
There are no watches. There were no watches left. None of them are left. Not for me, not for you. Yes, it happened once again. I missed out again.
“This is not happening” – I thought. Everything at that moment escaped me for I did not know what had happened. At that exact moment as I read those letters my brain was desperately trying to process what had just taken place in front of my eyes without finding any logical meaning. Maybe I was somehow reading the words wrong. This was unreal. Maybe this was someone’s bad idea for a joke. Yeah, that was totally it. Hey, whoever you are you are not a very good person so stop it. There was no way this was happening.
On that day the feeling that something was off since months ago and natural sheer curiosity had led to visit Aksys Games’ homepage to clear any doubts I had, however, I had not expected such outcome. After all, no big news regarding when the pre-order bonus offers would be up had reached me. How was this possible? Had something like this completely slipped by me these last months? Just in case, I checked popular video game sites for news regarding the pre-order bonus but didn’t find anything. How it happened it boggled my mind. I asked myself how it was even remotely possible. Whatever had happened in-between those quiet seemingly uneventful months.
It. Made. No. Sense.
What I found upon visiting Aksys Games’ page was the comedic tragedy (that was no laughing matter, believe me) where the general consensus was I was a few days too late to make it. Like a crucial event in a route that was missed because it passes too quickly to notice. Like not picking up a special indispensable item for a good ending. Like not saving that important character because you really honestly forgot ultimately getting a bad end. This was all of those combined – a dead end. I could almost sense the presence of an ominous skull floating around me as a realized my situation. Reality swiftly and professionally stopped me from the credulous idea of loading from the latest save file. This was really happening.
“No, this is really not happening.”
I had lost it all. As if by royal orders by a king with the worst sense of humor to walk the earth and demanded taxes I was the automatic loser in this zero-sum game in which the rules hadn’t even been explained to me. I was out before I even had a real shot at going against dozens, if not by the hundred, of buyers with the same goal of pre-ordering the elusive rare 999 watch with the game.
Had I know the situation would turn out like this I would have taken additional measures to avoid the worst possible outcome. Had I know this would happen I would have directly visited the provider’s site giving the pre-order bonus weeks before I did. Had I been able to change things would have turned out directly. Had any of those been possible at all, but it wasn’t it. The reality was quite different. The general message was that the pre-order bonus had been closed a few more days before I even went to the site.
In reality, that was not even the whole story.
I found one I found two I found three, and found more. As I read the comment section I kept finding a large number of fans in the exact precarious situation I was one after another. I was not alone in this, they had also been waiting for further news regarding the pre-order bonus deal, however, none of them heard any news so they never got around pre-ordering the game. Same as me they had been (and had their reasons) waiting for further official news to be released concerning what provider would be offering the 999 watches along with the sequel. Regrettably, none of them found their answers in time – as a result only a few lucky number managed to secure a special pre-order copy because they were extra careful.
A great number of fans didn’t get the news in time resulting in them missing out on getting their 999 watches (and for many once again). Even some who had signed up for Amazon’s email system did not get an email from Amazon resulting in them also being completely oblivious to the special offer had passed. Those were shocking news. The more shocking news (there were more) was that the majority of 999 watches had been already secured by those who had reserved a copy back in April – tragically but still logically the moment the game had only been announced meaning there was little chance of getting the watch from the very beginning.
But to anyone who is unfamiliar with “Zero Escape Series” the hype about is that these rare watches may appear overblown, however, let me assure them that these watches are more than just watches. After becoming a fan of the series after the first game one realizes the watches are more than a “cool bonus item” (notwithstanding still cool) bundled with a game – they are the symbol of the 999 series. They actually mean something, moreso to a fan. Sure, I was going to purchase 999’s sequel regardless of the pre-order watch or not, however, already having missed the first watch from the first game, getting the official 999 watch from the sequel was the perfect complimentary bonus incentive. The negative news of the 999 watches being sold out was a hard blow to take.
Still, the situation did not remain bleak as fate would have it. Despite the general consensus there were still deities I had not inadvertently pissed off.
“INOCULATION PROGRAM EXTENDED: Officials Will Produce Another Limited Batch
“VLR” infection spreads quickly, prompting officials to produce more inoculation devices” – Aksys Games
The effect was comparable to a phoenix rising from the ashes. Siliconera brought news of an incoming 2nd wave of 999 watches to be unleashed starting on October 18th to hit Amazon. What a stroke of luck. My expression went from somber to eye glittering as if it were possible, in a matter of minutes after finding there was still hope for everyone who had missed the first incredibly obscure news. Hope wasn’t lost. The fight wasn’t over. Neither had my enthusiasm to obtain that 999 watch had declined now that there was still a fighting chance. Never mind third time’s the charm – who waits for the third time anyway – such opportunity would not present itself again. Having a second time to do-over was too good. Failure was not allowed for this mission. It was officially time to grab some serious pants and put on a jacket and whatever other clothing in that line to mean business.
I was getting that watch.
With my objective crystal clear I would stalk Amazon’s page like a bird of prey or an affectionate yandere of sorts until I had reserved a pre-order bonus copy. This was what I was going to do. According to the news released Aksys Games would unleash the second wave of 999 watches on the 18th of September, and not a day before or after. It went without saying that no order prior to that day would be valid for the pre-order bonus other than those made initially when they announced the game back in early April. To make matters trickier, the exact time in which the pre-order bonus orders would go live had not been made public meaning that (and I emphasize this) the time pre-order bonus would be made available could be anytime in those 24 long hours on September 18. In other words, it was anyone’s game.
As promised AKSYS followed the law of “first come, first served” for the second wave as well. Make no mistake – the people I was up against were for real. This was going to be a monumental day in which fans would get themselves in a metaphorical survival game to determine who would and who wouldn’t get their pre-order bonus. No one was taking any prisoners. As news from other gaming sites had speculated the hype for 999’s sequel was higher than expected. For crying out loud, the first wave was over within the hour when it first came out, it was a no-brainer the second wouldn’t be so different. This people wanted their 999 watches as badly as I did, if not more. These guys were not kidding around, they meant business.
I needed a strategy plan if I was to realistically emerge victorious at all. If there was ever the time to formulate a plan to obtain a watch this was it. Especially since it was needed to emerge victorious. Especially since I was starting to be more than convinced the watches were not 999 in quality. I was one of many 999 fans who would with certainly click away the pre-order Amazon button the exact second the offer would be made available with no doubts. When every minute could make the difference between sure success or sure failure everything that could be done so the odds could be slightly on one’s favor was welcomed. Seeing that 1) the second wave would be open for pre-order on the 18th meant that day everyone would be ready. However, 2) the time of release wasn’t mentioned meaning 3) everyone had as much chance to pre-order not just whoever arrived on time. But 4) for the same reasons the time was unknown it was left to random chance, meaning supposedly everyone had the same chance. Those were just some of the numbers.
Everything aside, one thing was for sure – the number of watches was still limited in quantity meaning only a number of people would obtain them.
Knowing, information, is the best ally in any game. Random chance lacks certainty. The truth was that there were many who same as me also wanted to reserve a pre-order bonus copy but ultimately would not be able to so I devised a plan to improve my chances of obtaining a 999 watch, the old fashion way. I would stake out the provider’s page until the moment the 2nd wave would go live to secure a pre-order bonus copy. Good idea? Almost, at least until upon further reconsideration it made me realize it just wasn’t possible, if not practical. Seeing no one knew when the order would be made available it was going to be impossible to stay awake for 24 hours in addition to be constantly reloading Amazon’s page every minute, it could only mean the plan had to undergo a drastic transformation.
With all the excitement I stayed up for the first hour and only went to sleep after having verified there were no news at all. My internal clock thankfully also made the task a lot easier by waking me up seconds before the alarm had gone off more than once. My concentration was top-notch. At that time the plan to obtain an elusive rare 999 watch was put together the moment I put one and two together. What I knew, what I didn’t, what I needed, what I needed to do in order to emerge victorious.
The strategy plan consisted of waking up every two hours starting 1:00 am seeing I would only went to sleep after having waited a whole hour after midnight for news. Within that hour nothing happened.
The setups decided were based on what would cover the most ground in addition of having a specific pattern, they were : Having a lapse of two hours, 12 > 2 > 4 > 6 > 8 > 10 > 12 and having a lapse of three hours, 12 > 3 > 6 > 9 > 12. I considered this and that. Also considering the numeral three being a perfect number to divide twenty-four hours into two groups of fours. Also considering that incidentally three was a factor of the number nine. Also considering 24:00 is incidentally called the “zero hour”, which could’ve meant the pre-order would go live the moment the clock hit 12. All of this was pure speculation.
Was this completely over thinking it? I did not know about that, because they didn’t materialize until much later, but I sure knew I was serious enough to bet it all on that day and so were many others aiming for the same thing. It was only natural. The adventure to obtain that elusive rare 999 wasn’t going to be a cakewalk in any sense but I was dead set on getting that watch with the pre-order that day whatever happened. Once everything was ready all the quick thinking process stopped as I closed my eyes for the next two hours hoping for the best. I had also signed up for the Amazon e-mail confirmation just in case. Yes, that serious.
I would like to say I dreamed of something that night but I did not. My full attention was on reserving a Virtue Last Reward copy. My strategy was a good strategy but far from perfect, however, this was all that could be done so naturally I had to make the best of it. My entire strategy was riding on pre-order lasting more than a single hour, riding on the number of buyers who would double/triple pre-order to be low, riding on Amazon’s page to be working perfectly (there were some reports later saying it wasn’t), riding on Murphy’s Law taking a day off. Positive thinking, zen, and all that. Regardless of the actual number of buyers pre-ordering I had to assume in my equation that the special offer would last for least an hour at night because if it was at night I wouldn’t be up to do anything thus unable to access Amazon’s page, being unconscious and all that. To sum it up, my chances were higher in the morning, lower in the afternoon, and extraordinarily poor at night. Any spare positive energy coming toward this direction was valuable, I would have feng shui’ed my room had I known how to. Alas, I did not.
It was then 2 AM and nothing. It was 5 AM and nothing and between those two lapses there were other intervals of nothing happening like a super long movie. If suspense kill I was past overdue. Around 6:00 AM I woke up again and found that my poor night’s sleep had gone by without any news. Amazon’s page had not seen any changes. I was sleep deprived and as comfortable as having slept on a plane after last night with a slightly messy hair and sporting an ahoge I had not noticed. I missed my sleep moreso knowing it was sure to eventually get to me was I to wait for the remaining 16 hours. The worst case scenario was the offer going live at night for every one of us who had been waiting since last night. The best case scenario was pre-order bonus orders to go live in the morning. So far it was just not happening.
Finally, around 9 AM Amazon had, well, still not seen any changes. The pre-order bonus were going to be made available in the afternoon or later at night then I figured. Impatience and weariness were becoming visible with no clear release in sight yet.
Then it hit me.
The moment when all pieces come together like how perfect a Sudoku puzzle looks after finishing it. The last push to win the race in this game came to me.
Maybe I was looking at the problem the wrong way. In an actual clock (unlike a digital watch) there are 24 hours in theory, however in reality there are only 12 hours. What it meant was that my original theory wasn’t that off. The focus wasn’t on 24 it was on the actual numbers – two sets of twelve hours for day and night made twenty four – twelve hours. That would mean the pre-orders were to go live around 12! With certainty (and really hoping to not wait for more hours) I waited patiently for the clock to hit 12 to reload Amazon’s page every minute with plans on doing so, switching to five minutes intervals after 12:15 until it was completely past 12.
This is where the all the suspense ends.
The breakdown of it was the PSVita was sold out in the first 2-3 hours which I was not too sure about (I stopped counting after the second hour) while the 3DS completely sold out within the hour if not minute pre-orders went live. Everyone really wanted their watches.
My adventure ended there but not for everyone. As fate would have it (read issues with Amazon not resolved in time) new problems appeared days later the pre-orders had been made, the number of available 999 watches being limited, one of the two gaming systems running out of pre-order bonus in minutes compared to the other one. Seeing the nature of the limited watches not everyone was going to get their watches. The matter presented itself in the provider’s page as responses of dissatisfaction ending up with cases general discontent and the use of your mom is a classy lady as euphemism for omitted words. As a result later ASKYS would give a formal Statement of Disclosure regarding VLR Pre-Order Bonus as both an explanation and an apology for all problems customers may have faced due to Amazon and miscalculations. The process was not going to be perfect and so things did happen. Still ASKYS did try to make things right when they erred by talking to Amazon and even also gave threw one last small batch for a minutes so I heard. I concured that they are still a company fans can happily give their earned money to.
Aside that in the midst of the battle to get a 999 watch, there were positive moments in this every man for himself game, more than one would imagine. Among the battle royal to obtain the 999 watches there was unanimous support among fans to get their watches and also acts of comradeship among fans, total strangers, who would pre-order for those who would not be able to because the offer did not apply to them because of their location. If that is not a strong sign of camaraderie among fans I do not know what is.
For the rest of us who passed the challenge with flying colors this race was over the spoils of war would be waiting for us when the game was to be released. This is what it has been all about this past month. I can say I’m the proud owner of a copy of 999’s sequel Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward and the official watch. And If you are also a fan of the Zero Escape series you can now say you know someone who owns the official VLR watch. Also congratulations to everyone who participated and got their watches too. You all deserved it.