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X-Factor: Xbox 360 Sells Out

23 Nov, 2005 By: John Latchem

Employees from Best Buy, Microsoft's official retail launch partner for Xbox 360, unload consoles from trucks at the Zero Hour event Tuesday in the Mojave Desert.

Gamers braved cold weather and rain to be among the first to snatch up Microsoft's new Xbox 360, the first major next-generation video game console to hit the market.

The frenzy officially began with Xbox 360: Zero Hour, a festival held in the Mojave Desert in California from sundown Nov. 20 through midnight Nov. 22, when Xbox 360 consoles officially went on sale.

Thousands of gamers converged on an aircraft hangar decked out with hundreds of gaming stations. Attendees were treated to exclusive game demos, refreshments, live music and special giveaways.

More than 4,500 retail locations nationwide held special midnight madness sales, with hardcore players waiting up to 28 hours in line to get their hands on a system. Stores sold out quickly, and inventory not sold at midnight was snatched up the next morning, when many retailers opened early.

GameStop and Electronic Boutique customers holding in-store and online reservations had 48 hours to pick up their hardware, according to GameStop spokesperson Chris Olivera.

“Every Xbox in stock is spoken for,” said Olivera, who wouldn't comment on units sold.

One Best Buy employee said his Costa Mesa, Calif., store sold 50 units at midnight, and the remaining 20 consoles in stock were sold the next morning.

While exact sales figures have yet to be released, Microsoft previously estimated it would ship 3 million consoles within the first 90 days, generating sales in excess of $1.5 billion from system hardware and accessories.

Initially, Microsoft is offering a basic core system for $300, and an advanced upgraded package for $400. Both include the console, controller and trial membership for Xbox Live, Microsoft's online service that allows gamers to play each other worldwide. The $400 unit also includes a 20GB detachable hard drive, wireless controller, a universal remote and a Xbox Live headset. Many consumers expressed disappointment that the $400 package sold out first, leaving only the basic system.

Several online merchants were sold out of special bundles of the console packed with various games and accessories. Best Buy's bundles ranged from $400 for a basic package to $1,860 with a high-def system, complete with 23-inch monitor.

On eBay, some sellers were asking as much as $9,000 for a bundle consisting of a console, games and accessories. Many gamers were bidding as much as $2,500 to buy the hardware.

The short supply can be attributed in part to the overwhelming demand, but also the need to save inventory for an unprecedented global launch. Microsoft will launch Xbox 360 in Europe and Japan within the next three weeks.

GameStop's Olivera said interest has been fueled by new technology within the system and strong pre-release promotions. Several retailers have had in-store demos of the console for weeks. The Xbox 360 can play music, photos and DVDs, in addition to video games.

“It's more than just the gaming community,” Olivera said. “It has seeped into the general consumer market. Folks seem to be very excited about it.”

All mass merchant employees could say was they didn't know when new shipments would arrive. “We should have more by Christmas,” said the Costa Mesa Best Buy employee.

On the flip side, plenty of accessories and games remain, including the new King Kong game based on the upcoming Peter Jackson film. Also for sale are peripherals such as display stands and designer faceplates.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates visited a Best Buy store near Seattle to partake in the festivities and help distribute consoles. Gates announced Xbox 360 is the centerpiece for an upcoming online initiative called Windows Live. Eventually, Xbox Live will work with an instant messenger slated to be included in Windows Live.

Also in the works is an Xbox service called Microsoft Points, which allows gamers to prepay for game-related weapons, armor and other devices that would come into play in the virtual realm. Xbox Live already gives game makers opportunities to sell new levels and other upgrades to existing games.

Additional reporting by Erik Gruenwedel

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