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‘Halo 2' Hails a Stellar Video Game Season

9 Nov, 2004 By: John Gaudiosi

More than 7,000 retailers opened their doors at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 9. Before the first day of sales was over, Halo 2 had broken the $100 million mark and become the biggest video game launch in history.

The game, which had presold 1.5 million units, sold briskly at stores across the country.

“Midnight openings exceeded our expectations, which were already very aggressive,” said Debbie Mola, division VP of merchandise, EB Games, the largest independent video game retailer.

“The majority of sales were from customers who had pre-ordered a copy, but we had games available for walk-ins.”

More than 1,500 customers lined up at 16 designated Movie Gallery and Game Zone locations to retrieve their pre-purchased copies of Halo 2. Peter Moore, corporate VP of worldwide publishing and marketing for Xbox, said at the Harris Nesbitt investment conference in New York that one retailer sold 8,500 units in the first 11 minutes of release, while another sold 200,000 units by daybreak.

Billy Pidgeon, video game analyst for the Zelos Group, said that Microsoft's brisk sale of 2 million units in day one will continue throughout the holiday season and will be a driving force in subscriptions for Xbox Live, Microsoft's subscription online gaming service. Unlike the original Halo, which sold 5 million units worldwide, Halo 2 features online gameplay in addition to the single-person adventure. Analyst predictions for Halo 2's worldwide sales reach as high as 10 million units.

The launch of Halo 2 comes on the heels of another entrant in a huge game franchise, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which bowed Oct. 26. Rockstar Games' franchise has sold 32 million units worldwide over the course of the first five games. San Andreas, which sold more than 1.5 million copies in its first week, is expected to sell 5 million units by year's end and more than 15 million units during its shelf life, making it the biggest installment of the best-selling franchise. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, has sold 12 million units in the past two years.

While Halo 2 walked away with the biggest 24 hours in entertainment history, San Andreas will likely take the crown in total sales, due in part to the larger installed base that Sony has for its PlayStation 2 console, compared to Microsoft's No. 2 selling system, Xbox. Despite strong retail sales, both games should be big rental hits. All 2,400 Movie Gallery and Game Zone locations are offering Play on Promise guarantees for Halo 2 and San Andreas.

“If the game is out of stock, customers will receive a rain check that will allow them to rent the title for free on their next visit,” said Steve Lundeen, VP of multimedia.

There are many other big games shipping over the coming weeks in this record-breaking fourth quarter, including Ubisoft's Prince of Persia: Warrior Within, Konami's Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater; Nintendo's Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, Sony's Jak III, Gran Turismo 4 and Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal; and Electronic Arts' Need for Speed Underground II.

“The release of so many ‘AAA' titles will be a major factor in software sales rising over 2003 despite anticipation of next generation consoles being announced next year,” Pidgeon said. “Momentum will likely continue due to games being delayed to Q1 or Q2, reduced console prices and new portable systems from Nintendo and Sony.”

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