Popular video game release leads to long line outside EB Games amid COVID-19 outbreak
Customers line up outside EB Game on Yonge Street on Friday, March 20, 2020.
TORONTO -- The release of two popular video games has prompted gamers from across the city to press pause on some of the social distancing measures recommended by health experts in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
A long lineup has formed outside EB Games on Yonge Street in Toronto’s downtown core as people wait to get their hands on 'Animal Crossing: New Horizons' and 'Doom.'
“I’m actually like living with my grandparents right now so I have to be a little bit extra careful. I have hand sanitizer in my backpack. Like I’m super careful about stuff,” a woman lining up for 'Animal Crossing' told CP24 on Friday.
“But I don’t know, something about this game, you just have to come and get your hands on it.”
She said the game serves as a distraction from everything that has been going on in the outside world.
“This is a game about life and about living a life that is almost perfect in a way,” she added.
A line has formed outside of EB Games in dt #Toronto as people wait to get their hands on the new #AnimalCrossing video game.— Brandon Gonez (@brandongonez) March 20, 2020
This as we’re dealing with #Covid19 & with calls for non-essential biz to close & for people to apply social distancing. Some in line say they tried... pic.twitter.com/jX0YqXR2sQ
The company’s decision to keep stores open comes one day after Toronto Public Health urged all non-essential businesses in the city to close to help prevent further spread of the virus.
The decision to go forward with the release drew condemnation from Ontario’s premier.
“It’s unacceptable,” Doug Ford said. “To the young people please, do not get in line, practice social distancing, it’s unacceptable – this is exactly what causes the spread.”
He said any parent who knew their child was going to pick up the games should have stopped them from doing so.
He also said he was “disappointed” with the company.
Ford's comments were echoed by Mayor John Tory, who expressed his "profound displeasure" with EB Games' decision.
"This is not an act of good corporate citizenship," Tory said. "Let’s really give our heads a solid shake."
The mayor said he does not blame the people who lined up.
"If the store hadn’t been open, they wouldn’t have lined up," he added.
In a statement on the company’s website, EB Games said it is “working diligently” to provide customers and staff with the “safest environment possible.”
“We are taking action to institute multiple social distancing practices in our stores, such as only allowing a maximum of 10 customers in our stores at any given time, will no longer be accepting cash or trades, cancelling all gaming events and midnight launch activities until further notice, introducing in-store line management practices that creates a 1-meter perimeter between customers in checkout lines, and encouraging customers to leverage our online ecommerce capabilities and direct deliveries to their homes from our warehouse or stores,” the company’s statement read.
“We have been aggressively sourcing additional safety products and sanitary supplies to implement heightened cleaning practices on all high-touchpoint surfaces within our stores, as well as more accessible hand sanitization stations.”
The company went on to say that today, stores will not be allowing walk-in traffic and will only be allowing customers who have reserved ‘Animal Crossing’ and ‘Doom’ access to the store to pick up their games.
“We are all in this together and we are continuing to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic closely, following the guidelines provided by our Canadian Government and World Health Organization, while satisfying our gamers demand for the product they want in a manner that protects both our customers and our associates,” the company concluded.
Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg, the general manager of Toronto's office of emergency management, said he is aware of the situation and is still working to determine what the appropriate response should be.
"It may involve enforcement, that is yet to be determined," Pegg said.
Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's medical officer of health, said she is "disappointed" that the business did not heed her warning.
"I’m disappointed with that sort of crowd was allowed to build," she said.
On Friday night, EB Games announced that they are closing all their stores over COVID-19 concerns. In a statement, the company said online ordering will remain available.