three men sitting in front of a store
Mike Carrillo, Nick Sanchez and Ruben Escolero (from left to right) waiting for Zelda outside GameStop. Photo by Lingzi Chen, taken May 12, 2023.

The three young men arrived at the GameStop on Mission Street at 6 a.m., when the streets were still empty and all the shops were shut, to buy copies of “Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom.”

Each of them carried a folding chair, snacks, and work essentials: Phones, headphones, laptops. They had first gone to the Little Spot Café on 23rd Street to grab some hot coffee, knowing they would be waiting in the cold, and then walked another two blocks to Mission Street.

They unfolded their chairs and sat side-by-side outside the locked game store, waiting for it to open at 10 a.m. The sun had not yet risen.

No matter. They waited for Zelda.

“It’s a story to tell,” said Nick Sanchez, who along with his friends Mike Carrillo and Ruben Escolero, sat in line waiting for the much-anticipated release of the game on Friday.

“Thirty years from now, we’ll still remember, ‘Oh, we did a line together at 6 a.m. for this game.’”  

For the next three hours, a line of some 10 fellow gamers slowly formed behind the three early birds, all hoping to buy a physical copy of the “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” sequel. The original game, released in 2017, was a megahit, selling 30 million copies and garnering renown as one of the greatest games of all time.

While the digital version of the sequel became available last night at 9 p.m., that wouldn’t satisfy these three loyalists, who played and enjoyed the predecessor together in college.

 “It looks really nice on your shelf,” said Sanchez with a grin. The three were not only after a physical copy, but a limited collector’s edition that comes in a large box complete with poster, a book of game art, a steel case to store the game card, and a set of lapel pins.

Sanchez still remembered 2008, when he was a kid and his father brought him to a GameStop to line up for a game, though he could not recall the title. “There were a lot more people” then, he said. At this GameStop, staff were surprised that the line only reached a dozen or so people.

But now, standing and waiting outside a shop to grab another physical game, Sanchez lamented that doing so was “a dying tradition.” 

“Because everyone is doing it digitally,” his friend Carillo added.

The three roommates met at the University of California, Berkeley, and work in finance and tech. From 6 to 10 a.m., they worked remotely, logging into their laptops and attending meetings in the brisk morning air.

On Thursday night, the three friends listened to the soundtrack from the previous Zelda game, refreshing their college memories and pumping themselves up for the following morning.

Their plan worked: They arrived earlier than anyone else, and got the first three slots to buy a collector’s edition — a $129.99 purchase, compared to $69.99 for the standard edition.

At 10 a.m., Carrillo was the first in line to purchase the game. He immediately started packing it into a large bag — something all three roommates had brought along. “I don’t want to get robbed walking out of a GameStop with this,” Carrillo laughed.

three men standing, holding boxes with collector's editions of "Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom."
Ruben Escolero, Mike Carrillo and Nick Sanchez (from left to right) in GameStop. Photo by Lingzi Chen, taken May 12, 2023.

Correction: An earlier version of the article stated this GameStop is the last in San Francisco. That was an error. There is one more GameStop in Stonestown Galleria.


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Lingzi is our newest reporting intern. She covered essential workers in New York City during the pandemic and wrote about China’s healthcare and women’s rights back in college. Before coming to America to pursue her dream in journalism, Lingzi taught in the Department of Chinese Studies in National University of Singapore.

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