In all fairness, I wrote this when it happened, but couldn’t share it with you until now.
Whoo! Halo 3 is finally here! Time to relax, sit back, and enjoy the fun and games. I spent four hours last night at the Halo 3 launch event in Manhattan, hanging with Ludacris, watching hundreds of cheering and screaming fans and lots of Microsoft spectacle, and enjoying every damn minute of it. A full report, followed by a ton of photos:
According to Best Buy, they counted 500 shoppers (and a ton of media), each buying an average of 1.5 copies. I saw many, many buyers walking away with the Legendary Edition, with many of the first hundred buyers getting it, or at least the Limited Edition. Some people even walked away with Halo 3 Xbox 360s.
Outside, there were giveaways and sponsorships all over the place. Mountain Dew was passing around shot glasses of Game Fuel, the Halo 3-branded drink, and the crowd was all hyper, actually chanting, “Game! Fuel!” more than they chanted “Halo!” There were signs, a guy in line who came dressed as Master Chief, giveaway shirts from four different companies, giant screens, eight of those spotlights that shoot all the way into the air, giveaway balloon sticks, giveaway wall hangings, giveaway balls and light up balls, and other things.
When the store opened and they let people in, ten at a time, the people outside were cheering, the employees were clapping and cheering, the atmosphere was exhilarating. You didn’t see a fifth as many people, and certainly not this much excitement and pandemonium, at the iPhone launch. Apple may have a hit product, but the Xbox and Halo are becoming the more dynamic, exciting brands, while iPod becomes more of a routine commodity.
Celebrities were inside, being interviewed and chatting with Major Nelson and others of the Xbox crew and playing the game. Mostly, we saw rappers (like Ludacris, Chingy, and Bobby Valentino) and football players from the Jets and Giants.
At 20 minutes to midnight, Mongooses came down the street with UNSC soldiers riding them, followed by a tricked out Halo 3 Hummer. A Master Chief guy (in highly detailed armor) came out to meet the army supply box filled with the ceremonial first copies and escorted them, and the first two guys in line, into the store, and gave them their copies of the hotly anticipated game.
All in all, it was an amazing experience. It’ll be a long time before anyone has a launch as big as this.
Microsoft is claiming 1.7 million pre-orders of the game, which would be $102-$153 million in just pre-orders. Wired is claiming 4 million pre-orders, while Microsoft predicts 3 million copies will be sold besides the pre-orders. Either way, we’re talking bare minimum $200 million in sales the first week, which no one can deny is a freaking amazing tally.
Congratulations, Microsoft. For today, no one can deny that you are, indeed, cool.
Don’t ask, just, just don’t ask. The site has been nigh inaccesible all week, and I’m working with GoDaddy to put an end to these sort of problems forever. With any luck, all will be stable and good in the next few days/a week, and all will be well for a long, long time.
In the meantime, I’ve disabled some sidebar features and the stats on top commenters and search terms. They’ll be back as soon as the new server is ready, but I already miss them. For some reason, I think Tim misses them more.
The worst part of it all, for me, is that I lost a lot of money this week in lost advertising revenue (plus, I probably lost quite a bit of hair thanks to all the stress). I’m going to have to dig deep on my non-skills in selling advertising to keep the creditors at bay this month (and if you’d like to suggest ways I could accomplish that, please do).
Anyway, the content is back, things are improving in a nice way in the next week, so bear with, and prepare for a barrage of posts. Thanks for your patience.
If you’re avoiding spoilers, but still like thinking about how Halo could end, check out this list of the “top” five ways the Halo trilogy could end. Don’t worry, all of them are so outlandish that they couldn’t possibly be true (unless Microsoft really did hire Will Smith and Ellen Degeneres to voice the final scene).
A small percentage of random websurfers are being gifted with early access to the new Windows Live Search as Microsoft begins testing it in preparation for the Searchification event later this week. LiveSide has screenshots, which show an approach similar to Google’s Universal Search, with related searches, product results with thumbnail pictures, image results and news results all in the main search, and a significantly streamlined new Windows Live navigation bar.
There’s also a screen shot of a new product search expanded result, complete with user reviews and ratings and links to buy.
I’m hearing that Microsoft’s new corporate philosophy divides the online offerings into three, not two divisions: MSN, Windows Live, and Live Search, with Windows Live for personal productivity and communication and MSN for programmed content. If that’s the direction they’re heading in, it’ll either help seperate and define the various products for users, or further confuse them with three brands.
If you buy the $70 Limited Edition of Halo 3 tonights, open the package before you leave the store. Because the plastic nub holding the disk is short and offset by two foam pads, a decent number of disks are coming loose during shipping. If your disk came loose, it may slide against the metal casing and get scratched, which could completely damage the disk or at least cause skipping music. Open it in store, take a look, and if you have to, exchange it right there.
After all, after the three years of anticipation, the last thing you want to do is have to stare at a useless disk and wait till morning to return it.
Reuters has an article about some Halo 3 marketing ideas that were left on the cutting room floor, pretty much for the right reason. They include pajamas, sippy cups, lottery tickets, Cortana-themed lingerie, and toy guns based on Halo weapons.
Check out this Silverlight-powered Halo 3 users guide, complete with a recap of the story so far, controls, characters, weapons and equipment, vehicles, settings, multiplayer, viewing saved game films, the Forge map editor and other things. You’ve got a day, so familiarize yourself and get caught up so you won’t be so rusty when you pick it up tonight.
Here’s the text from The Story So Far section, to even better help you get caught up:
It is the year 2552. Humanity has long been at war with the terrifying alien civilization that collectively calls itself the Covenant. This monstrous conglomerate of warlike species sees Humanity as a form of heresy against their religionâ€”a religion based in the single-minded belief that a Great Journey awaits its faithful and that this Journey can be embarked upon by firing an array of vast ringlike weapons scattered throughout the galaxy.
These immense terraformed rings, known as Halos, have been abandoned by their mysterious and longâ€”vanished creators, the Forerunners.
This conflict, terrible and destructive though it is, has recently been complicated by a series of cascading events. One of these artificial worlds, these Halos, was discovered and subsequently destroyed by Human forces, led by Spartan-117â€”the Master Chiefâ€”the last fighting member of the legendary SPARTAN II military program and Humanityâ€™s last, best hope.
Conflict at a second Halo installation then ignited a galaxy-spanning conflagration as civil war erupted within the Covenant, driven by revelations that the Covenant leadership, the Prophets, had been
deliberately deceMng its populace.
In truth, these Halos would not take the Covenant on a Great Journey but rather eradicate all sentient life in the galaxyâ€”a last-resort defense against the most terrifying menace the galaxy has ever knownâ€”and a menace the deluded Covenant has reawakened for the second time in a hundred thousand years.
That horror is the floodâ€”a sentient, allâ€”consuming parasite that makes monstrous puppets of those it kills and will not stop until every last thinking creature is absorbed into its ferociously intelligent plan. The second Halo has been activated, putting all of the remaining installations in a dangerous state of emergency standbyâ€”they are now primed to fire. Worse still, the Covenant has discovered the longâ€”hidden location of Earth and crushed almost all Human resistance as it seeks vital clues to the nature of the Halo array, some of which may have been hidden under our very feet for untold millennia.
Even with our newfound allies, the Elites, and their valiant and honorable leader, the Arbiter, we are still hopelessly outnumbered. The Prophets set their wills against usâ€”and forces greater than the Covenant wheel malevolently into place, intent upon the destruction of all but the Flood.
As the Master Chief hurtles Earthward in a Forerunner spacecraft, he may be our last chance to stop the Covenant, the flood, and the ticking time bomb that is the Halo network, before every last soul in the galaxy is destroyed. The stakes have never been higher.
Microsoft has released the first version of MSN SideGuide, the first version of a special sidebar users install in order to be able to use free ad-supported wifi networks it is testing in Portland and Oakland. The sidebar contains links to related MSN content, a small ad, MSN/MSNBC headlines, another small ad, and a Windows Live Search box at the top.
The idea is that in order to use the free wifi, you must install and run SideGuide. SideGuide analyzes what you are browsing and displays relevant links and targeted advertisements on the side of your screen in order to pay for the wifi (paying for it both with the ads in SideGuide, and Microsoft-provided ads behind the links you may also click).
SideGuide takes away a portion of the left or right side of your screen while you are browsing the web, and hides itself if you run a program other than a web browser (currently, it detects IE, Firefox, Opera and Safari browsers). If you close SideGuide, you lose your wifi connection.
I wonder, if the concept proves successful, some ISPs would consider providing free or cheaper internet connections to users with similar products installed. Nobody likes the idea of ad bars on their screen, but this is less obtrusive than those giant banner ads older services used, enough so that it might be worth it for some.
Xobni is one of the cool startups to come out of the TechCrunch 40 conference, and after installing their software, I’ve come off pretty impressed. Xobni produces a free Outlook add-in (Xobni is inbox backwards) that appears as a sidebar while reading emails in Outlook.
The sidebar analyzes all your previous conversations with that contact, pulling out that person’s phone number from email signatures (if you don’t already have it) and linking the number to Skype so you can call that person. It also builds a list of people connected to that person (based on CCs and forwards), previous emails you’ve gotten from that person, and a list of files you’ve received from that person, as well as tracking who your most popular contacts are, what time they tend to email you, and how much you’ve been emailing back and forth lately.
All in all, there’s a lot of power here, and a lot of smart touches (like the fact that when you click on a past email, it opens in the sidebar, not taking you away from your current email). I’m trying to figure out if there’s a way to see a list of your most popular contacts (currently, it just shows you a number when you click on an email, and I’ve only found my #7).
You can get a list of people you haven’t talked to into a while and it thinks you should get back in touch with. There’s a seperate analytics area it opens up that shows you how long it takes you to respond to emails (I’m up to 18 hours!), summaries, mail traffic, stats on your unique contacts over a period of time and other things.
There’s a lot of good stuff in there, and if you’re always looking for ways to improve Outlook, or you’re just bad at keeping track of your social relationships, be smart and go check it out.
ZuneScene reprints a conversation it had with what it says is a trusted source, who confirms they are shooting for an October 16 release date for the next generation Zunes. The new Zunes will come in green, pink, black or red, and in both larger sizes with an 80 gigabyte hard drives, and smaller sizes with 4 and 8 gig flash memory.
The most interesting thing might be the new center control button will not be the old circle button, but a new control called a “squircle”, a half-square, half circle, which has a dome underneath so you can push it from the sides. Sounds like the new button might be the sort of unique touch that forces people to give the Zune a second look. I can’t wait to see the new Zunes in person.
The new homepage for Windows Live Search, which LiveSide told us was coming last week, has gone live, a whole week before the Searchification event. The search results pages haven’t taken on the new interface, but you can see the new page at live.com (or search.live.com if you use the personalized homepage). One wonders why this launched now, and not at Searchification. What are they holding for next week?
Mass Effect, an upcoming Xbox 360 action role-playing game, has submitted information to a games rating board that it will feature a sex scene that players can initiate. While I am glad to see games willing to take some risk and try things that would be completely acceptable in movie theatres, everyone is puzzled by the nature of the sex.
See, you can be a male character or a female characters. Males can have sex with human women or alien women. Women can have sex with a human man or an alien woman. Apparently, the game is okay with male/female sex (human/human or human/alien), woman/woman sex (alien only), but not man/man sex. I can think of several possible reasons:
Alien men are extremely unattractive, and no one, man or woman, would ever have sex with them.
Alien women are extremely attractive, causing the woman character to “switch teams”.
They are balancing the scales after Bully, which featured man/man kissing.
Commonly, the opinion is that man/man sex is not considered “hot”, while woman/woman sex is considerd “very hot”.
Alien men don’t sleep with other alien men, they just eat their brains.
What do you think? I think the censors are going to go nuts, and the game may never ship with this scene, but we’ll see.