NEWS - Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Xbox 360 Launch: The Wait Is Over...

Fahrenheit 50: The temperature at which Xbox 360 fans burn, at least here in Colma, Calif., a few miles west of the IGN office. Yes, it was a brisk night for us West Coasters as IGN Xbox editor in chief Doug Perry and I scoured the peninsula south of San Francisco until 12:01 a.m. November 22, the official launch date of the 360. We visited two Gamestops, two Targets and a Best Buy and we learned one thing the world already knows: people really want the 360. At the Colma Circuit City, a crew of 11 hardcore gamers was camped outside the doors, drinking 40s of Old English and doing their best to keep warm. At 7 a.m., management was scheduled to hand out vouchers to the first 16 devoted Xbox 360 fans waiting in line. David Boluasy of South San Francisco was first in line and said he chose Circuit City because, "I heard no one ever comes here." As for software, Boluasy said, "Call of Duty 2. That’s it. That’s all I want." COD2 was the runaway favorite for hot launch title at each of the stores we visited. Across the street from Circuit City at the Colma Target, 21 bundled-up gamers were lined outside the store at 11:30 a.m., but they weren’t waiting for any midnight madness event -- they were in it for the long haul, an all-night sidewalk sleepover, a homage to the homeless. Like Circuit City, Target was going to pass out vouchers to the faithful. At 8 a.m., they could return and pick up a shiny 360. One couple came well prepared with lawn chairs, blankets and plenty to read, including the book "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership." Maybe that was the inspiration to wait outside in the cold night to pick up a 360. It takes a leader to do that. At the Serra Center Target, Josh Tiamalu waited in front of the line, cordoned off by a red velvet rope. He wore a beanie and stood shivering. His reason for enduring the cold, hard night: "I gotta get Call of Duty 2." His secret: "We’re drinking a lot of Rockstar." The atmosphere at the Colma Best Buy was nowhere near as festive. At Target and Circuit City, those fans knew that they were the first in line and were all but guaranteed to take home a system early in the morning. They had hope and a glimmer in their eyes. At Best Buy, there were only six units available that were not preorders. The rest of the 60 or so units were all reserved. In line, the faithful that waited hours started to dissipate. The energy was almost hostile as gamers wanted to get their system and get the heck out of there. Inside, patrons were forced to buy bundles if they wanted to take home a system. While most people are likely to buy a few games and accessories at launch, we at IGN are firm believers in choice. Instead of a midnight party too, Best Buy management settled on a few balloons as they let only a handful of customers in the store at a time. At an EB Games in San Francisco, there were 21 units in stock, and management opened the doors only for the first batch of preorders. It was a get-in, get-out affair, and a few members of the press were on hand to interview those lucky souls that would rather be home testing out their copies of Perfect Dark Zero. Pretty quiet, all in all. At the two local Gamestops, Call of Duty 2 was again the big seller, along with Perfect Dark Zero and Project Gotham Racing 3. In a surprise twist, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 06 was actually outselling Madden NFL 06 at one Gamestop. Both stores had one thing in common: a lack of 360s. One store had 114 preorders. Instead of the expected 50 or so units expected, the store only received 16. A clerk went on to say that he received an email that night that said the store would receive, on average, less than 10 units a week. If you happen to be at the bottom of that preorder list, you may have to wait well into February before you get your hands on the first next-generation console. For the faithful few, however, waiting out in the cold and living on caffeine into the wee hours of the morning is paying off, and they will be among the first to own a 360. The few. The proud. The 360 owners.

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