US Halo 3 launch madness

Three-year wait finally at an end.

Halo 3 has finally launched in the US, greeted by thousands of consumers desperate to get their hands on the highly-anticipated Xbox 360 title, GamesIndustry.biz reports.

For employees at the GameStop in Folsom, California, one of the 10,000 US retailers opening at midnight, the launch of Halo 3 was just as big as they were expecting.

"Halo 3 is the biggest game ever for reservations in the history of GameStop," said a worker named Brian. "We've already pre-sold more copies than Halo 2, World of Warcraft, or any other big releases."

One of the questions analysts and journalists alike are asking is whether or not Halo 3 will cause a significant increase in Xbox 360 console sales. For this GameStop, anyway, the answer is yes.

"We have had multiple people buy the Halo-themed console...about 10 this past week alone...ready to play the game," said a GameStop employee. "Regionally, our supplies of used Xbox 360 consoles have dwindled down to only a few. We've definitely seen a spike in the sale of Xbox 360 consoles."

GameStop is the world's largest videogame retailer, operating 4,954 stores throughout the US, UK, and worldwide. This northern California store, on the outskirts of the state's capitol city, took almost 700 reservations, with two nearby stores having taken more than 1,000 reservations.

According to the GameStop employees, the majority of pre-orders were taken on the standard edition of the game, with approximately 20 per cent for the collector's edition. The Legendary edition, priced USD 129.99, was also in high demand. Of the 120 copies received by the store, all but one were pre-sold.

The line outside the store began at 10:15am, only a few minutes after the store opened. By the time the doors opened again at midnight, the line had wrapped completely around the building, with several hundred people waiting patiently.

Raymund Ofina, 16, was first in line. Actually, his older sister saved his place in line for him until school let out at 3:00pm, and stayed with him to make the purchase. What would motivate the siblings to remain outside a store for 14 hours?

"Halo is one of the best games ever made," Ofina said. "My friend got me into it. It was really fun, and I got hooked." He planned to stay up all night to play through the single-player campaign, although he would not admit to planning to stay home from school the next day.

Others in the crowd were not so coy, freely admitting that they planned to skip school and work if necessary. Most intended to play the campaign first, although a few said they would jump right into multiplayer matches.

Another GameStop employee, identifying himself only as "Cool Jeff", acted as an impromptu bouncer for the night. Fortunately, the crowd remained orderly, and the only unauthorized entry came from someone's small dog. Jeff promptly caught the ticketless interloper.

"They're here for the best game of the year," the 19 year-old remarked as he surveyed the crowd. "I am so excited to play this game. I am definitely getting one for myself!" He won't be skipping work, though--he has the day off tomorrow.

A few minutes after midnight, Raymund Ofina left the GameStop with the USD $129.99 Legendary Edition box hoisted above his head. The crowd outside broke into applause. Moments later, the screeching of tires could be heard as the next group of Halo 3 owners made a hasty exit from the parking lot, eager to head home to play the game.

Scenes like this repeated themselves all across the US.

While regional events in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and Seattle featured celebrities and giveaways, attracting larger crowds, even the people waiting there were quick to leave...ready to go home and fire up the long-awaited game on their Xbox 360s.

Steve Evans, 21, arrived shortly before the midnight opening, thanks to a friend who saved his spot during the afternoon. "I think it's the best first-person shooter since Goldeneye. Halo 1 was great, Halo 2 was even better...Halo 3's got to be even better than Halo 2."

Unlike Ofina, Evans didn't plan to stay up all night.

"I'd like to do the multiplayer first, but I don't know if I am going to have the chance to," Evans said. "I've got to sleep. I like sleep."

Head over to our review of Halo 3 to see why we thought it was the best in the series so far and warranted top marks.

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