September 24, 2007 11:35 PM PDT

NY's 'Halo 3' launch was no riot, but it was close

NY's 'Halo 3' launch was no riot, but it was close
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September 24, 2007
NEW YORK--Late Monday night, George Clooney waltzed into a midtown Manhattan hotel, with the camera flashes of the paparazzi following him into the lobby.

A block away at the Best Buy store on Fifth Avenue and 44th Street, those waiting for the launch of Microsoft's Halo 3 video game couldn't have cared less.

They had their own epilepsy-inducing lights, after all. New York's Halo 3 debut stopped short of pyrotechnics, but it was over the top in just about every other way.

"George Clooney who?" one person near the head of the line joked when he heard the gossip. Like most of the queuers who'd shown up at the Best Buy store for the official launch celebration of the final installment of the Xbox 360 game trilogy, he was young, male and sporting a Halo 3 T-shirt that had been given away as part of the festivities.

"We're more famous than him tonight," a nearby line-waiter added, gesturing at one of the many flat-panel TV screens that had been set up in the windows of the Best Buy store, projecting previews of the title, interspersed with live footage of numerous NFL players from the New York Giants and New York Jets inside the store, squaring off against one another on Halo 3. For this crowd, Clooney couldn't hold a candle to Master Chief, the iconic Halo protagonist who's been blasting away at bad guys on TV screens since the original title launched in 2001.

Don't hold back
Tech reporters and enthusiasts are well accustomed to the fact that Microsoft likes to pull out the public relations guns for a product launch--remember Vista's debut? Halo 3 was no exception.

An enormous spotlight beamed up over Fifth Avenue, and full-out lighting and sound equipment--along with plenty of enormous TV screens--dominated the ground scene. A team of Mountain Dew minions were walking around with trays of plastic shot glasses containing a seemingly endless supply of samples of its Halo 3-branded energy drink, "Game Fuel." There was a guy in a Master Chief outfit, of course. Best Buy and Microsoft representatives were giving away T-shirts and other prizes to the fans who were willing to scream the loudest or wave their homemade signs (best one: "MASTER CHIEF IS MY FATHER"). And in addition to the handful of local NFL players, rappers Ludacris and Chingy and R&B singer Bobby Valentino were also on-site to try out the game for the cameras.

Click here to Play

Video: Midnight launch in NY
Completing the Halo trilogy, Halo 3 launches. CNET talks to fervent fans in midtown Manhattan.

And there were a whole lot of cameras. Microsoft dominated the myriad big-screen TVs with its in-house coverage of the launch, but video and photo crews were around from every local television network, as well as cable channels like Spike TV and G4 that target the Halo demographic. There were also more than a few video bloggers and even lifecaster Sarah Meyers.

At first, it seemed as though the marketing and press were going to overshadow the actual pack of fans. There simply weren't that many of them in line earlier Monday; with fewer than 12 hours left, the line still stood at about 15 people despite the fact that 28-year-old Uche Nwachukwu, the first person to show up, had been there since 6 p.m. Sunday. Things didn't really pick up until schools and offices had cleared out for the day, and by about 7 p.m., the line was pretty respectable. By about 10:30 p.m., it stood at several hundred.

'Mixed reactions, mixed feelings'
All in all, the crowds and the audio-visuals made for a sight that certainly turned heads. "Some people just pass by and say 'Oh, you're crazy. What are you in line for?'" said 22-year-old Alex Escobar, who was near the front of the line. "Mixed reactions, mixed feelings, I don't care. I love my Halo."

But no one, really, was prepared for the spectacle that the Halo 3 event would turn into with about an hour to go. Best Buy and Microsoft staffers kept their swag giveaways going, insisting that the rambunctious crowds cheer at the top of their lungs in order to get a free T-shirt or bouncy ball thrown at them. The bouncy balls were a bad idea, as the line-waiters proceeded to simply hurl them at one other, but thankfully no legitimate fights ensued. (It made you wonder exactly what was in that "Mountain Dew Game Fuel.")

Then the Mongooses arrived. With only 20 minutes left before midnight, three camo-clad bikers atop all-terrain vehicles decorated to look like the Halo 3 pimped rides showed up and incited the crowds to cheering as they performed noisy "wheelies" along the block of Fifth Avenue that had, by that time, been completely blocked off from normal traffic. They were followed by a Hummer H2 decorated in Halo 3 logos, from which an armored Master Chief ceremoniously pulled several copies of the game and took them inside for the first few buyers.

With the combination of massive, energy-hogging audio-visuals, a Hummer, discarded plastic shot glasses and several all-terrain vehicles, it should be noted that this was embarrassingly far from being a "green" event. But that apparently wasn't the point.

At its climax, the New York Halo 3 launch resembled some combination of a red-carpet premiere, a wild sporting event and an apocalyptic action movie. The security presence was considerable, considering the energy of the crowd. But when midnight rolled around, it was unclear whether the eager, heavily sugared and caffeinated gamers or the camera-wielding press would be the ones to start some kind of riot. Luckily, no one did.

The Halo fans, after all, had only one thing on their minds: go home, log on to their Xbox 360s and load up that new game.

"I feel awesome," said Chris Camisa, who had been fifth in line, as he traded Xbox Live usernames with some other young gamers whom he'd met while waiting so that they could eventually meet again and blow each other's Halo 3 incarnations to bits. "I skipped one class today, and it was well worth it," he said.

Next to him, one of the other early line-waiters held up the limited-edition Halo 3 game that was sold to early adopters, packaged with a Master Chief helmet.

"All right!" he exclaimed, waving the box above his head. "Now I'm going to go play--all night."

See more CNET content tagged:
Halo 3, launch, Best Buy Co. Inc., Manhattan, public relations


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i work at a walmart near st louis mo. we had half of our halo 3 collectors editions have scratches on the because of the poor packaging. right after we started selling them people were imediately returning them. we had 30 copies of h3ce and more then half were damaged and couldnt be sold.
is this an isolated incident?
Posted by terminalblue (423 comments )
Reply Link Flag
out of interest
Did you sell anyone a Xbox 360 along with their copy of Halo 3?
Posted by NickH (127 comments )
Link Flag
re: scratches....
i just picked up my h3ce from a futureshop in toronto and it looks
like my dvd is all scratched up too. this doesn't look like an isolated
Posted by dj-robbie-b (1 comment )
Link Flag
Outsourcing 101, Halo 3
'"I skipped one class today, and it was well worth it," he said..'

And Bill Gates wonders why he can find well-educated workers without going outside the country. Maybe because his (and others) create a hype machine that encourages consumption above production. Business wants it both way. They want smart, hard-working employees, who will work cheap; and they want customers who will enthusiastically buy into the advertising blitz, skip school or work, and buy $500 consoles to play $60 games.

As for the game, there are better out there. I'll skip my classes for BioShock and Crysis. ;o)
Posted by ogman (150 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Better games...
Dunno, there are very personal preferences in games. I think you would go a long way to find a game that had better replay potential, particularly on line. Thats the Halo signature.
Posted by Kimsh (813 comments )
Link Flag
Production vs. Consumption
I would say it's otherwise. In the battle between PCs and other alternatives (such as browser based network computers) the PCs have always represented the production side of content, while the alternatives were more on the side of consuming content. And that's the reason why PCs won those past battles: people want to produce as much as they want to consume.
Now that the competitors are learning the lesson and focusing as much on content production as on consumption, this might change, but the fat is that PCs have always been promoters of production more than other alternatives, even in entertainment (compare a PC with a TV or even a book).
Posted by herby67 (144 comments )
Link Flag
That's so funny that they mentioned the little orange ball's being thrown, that all started because of me. I didn't do it on purpose though. Still funny because it got mentioned.
Posted by flipsol3 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
one guy bought a 360 core, but no halo...i did talk to a few people that had bought 360's over the weeks prior to launch.
Posted by terminalblue (423 comments )
Reply Link Flag
About Halo 3 as a 'System Seller'...
I'm sure a number of folks who were planning on getting an
Xbox 360 upgrade from their original Xbox systems will push up
their holiday purchase to dive into Halo 3.

But, I think that as far as bona fide NEW Xbox owners, the
numbers will not be as stellar as has been hyped/hoped for by
Microsoft. I think the spike for new Xbox owners came from
Gears of War's launch et al and the traditional holiday cycle.

Halo 3 is a sequel. It relies heavily on a person having a vested
interest in completing a story arc and evolving the game play
they know from having played the first two games--those are,
by and large, people who already own Xboxs and most probably
have already upgraded to a 360 by now.

As someone who entered the Xbox world last year during the
Gears onslaught, I can attest that its exciting new franchises and
next gen experiences that will draw more 'virgin' owners to the
console (I also jumped into HD-DVD w/ the add-on at time of
purchase). I'm only now going back and playing through the
original Halo games to 'see what the fuss is all about'. Then,
down the line, I might get 3 to "finish the fight..."
Posted by shanewalker (57 comments )
Reply Link Flag
new console sale
I think you are right about that. It is really going be the original XBox owners who have not upgraded that this will get to. I am one. Still, there are probably a few of them.
Posted by Kimsh (813 comments )
Link Flag
I hate GoW
Am I the only person that hates Gears of War? It sure feels like it. It like FPSs but playing GoW is just painful.

I for one bought a Halo Edition 360, Halo 3, and 3 additional controllers this week. There just haven't been any 'must have' games for the 360 this far, IMO. And no, I'm not a Halo fanboy. The multiplayer is hard to beat though.
Posted by cmader (1 comment )
Link Flag
So THAT'S why no one came to work today.
If women could only get into this game the same way men do, there'd be not a single person in the office.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by itgumbo (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dead Quiet.
I work at GameStop in Philadelphia, we opened at midnight, and 2 people turned up. Was a total washout.

Still the Microsoft hype machine keeps moving...
Posted by mgillespie2 (156 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I recorded the event. Check it out:
Recorded Halo 3 party here: <a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by sandieman (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Gotta love Sarah Meyers
She is the best lifecaster ever :)
Posted by gigabot (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Great Coverage
Good story. It was also great to see the coverage of the lifecaster, Sarah Meyers, and how this is changing news and social media.

The last part of the story was really about the movement to Reeds law and it' impact.
Posted by dsmithaustin (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'm glad you mentioned Sarah Meyers. She's a great lifecaster and her covering of this event was awsome.
Posted by someguy1 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
sarah's a zany girl
and so much fun to watch on
Posted by steelerfan64 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

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