COLUMBIA – Kevin McKenna arrived at 7:45 Monday night at Tiger Tech on the MU campus to wait for the midnight release of “Halo 3,” a video game for the Xbox 360 console. McKenna, an MU senior, was the first person in the prepaid line for the latest entry in Microsoft’s blockbuster franchise.
“I’m a big fan of the first and second game, but I’m not a hardcore gamer,” McKenna said. “It was more about nostalgia than anything else.”
From the moment McKenna arrived, gamers began to trickle into the lobby of Brady Commons to wait behind him. By 11 p.m., more than 150 people appeared, jittery with anticipation, and when midnight finally hit, at least 50 more gamers showed.
“‘Halo 3’! ‘Halo 3’!” chanted Matt Newman, a MU student who plans to skip class Tuesday and perhaps Wednesday.
Across the city Monday night, “Halo” fans waited in long lines at retail locations including Wal-Mart, Gamestop, EB Games, Slackers CDs & Games, Game Crazy and Tiger Tech to get their hands on the game. “Halo 3” is expected to set sales records for video games, and some analysts believe it is poised to break a one-day sales record for any entertainment medium.
At Gamestop, Keith Rettenmeier, a 14-year-old who attends Jefferson Junior High School, had his parents drop off a comfortable chair at 4:45 p.m. Rettenmeier was the first person there and was one of the only people in the line who preordered the $129.99 legendary version of the game. “I’ve been waiting for this since I finished ‘Halo 2,’” he said.
The game is rated “M” for “mature,” which at most retailers means a 17-year-old guardian needs to be there to purchase the game. Rettenmeier overcame this obstacle by having his father show up at midnight to pay for the game. Rettenmeier also said he was allowed to skip school Tuesday, an early release day, to play the game.
Also at Gamestop, a group of about eight “Halo” fans made a tailgating party out of the event, grilling hot dogs and hamburgers on a portable charcoal grill. Justin Dirks, a 21-year-old who plans to play all night but still has to go to work Tuesday, grilled hot dogs while listening to the “Halo” soundtrack on his speakers. “I preordered the game the first day that Gamestop started offering preorders,” he said. “So I called my friend and told him we had to tailgate.”
The gamers at various retailers were primarily young, white men, but not all of them fit that demographic.
Marcus Vincent, a black 22-year-old MU senior waiting at Tiger Tech, said the only games he owns for his Xbox are the first two “Halo” games. His gamertag, the way he is identified in the online gaming community, is “Shwarzer Mannn,” which means “black man” in German.
Nicole Mautino and Natalie Hantek, two MU students who did not know each other, both said they wished more girls played video games while waiting in line at Tiger Tech. “I think some girls try too hard to be girly,” Mautino said.
“They feel like they can’t play with the boy,” she said. “But sometimes you have to take the boys down ...”
At Wal-Mart, Sarah Wyrick, a deaf mother sitting on the ground, was waiting patiently to buy a copy. She wrote: “I’m here for my son, who is a very avid gamer. I’m getting it for his birthday. He will be 13 years old.”
Dale Sanders, who planned the midnight launch for Tiger Tech, said “Halo 3” should be the best-selling game in the store’s history, replacing the record that “Halo 2” currently holds. Sanders said the store took about 160 preorders for the regular edition, 40 for the limited edition and 10 for the legendary edition.
The three editions cost between $59.99 and $129.99. The regular edition comes with the game only; the limited edition, for $69.99, includes the game, a bonus content disk and a comic; and the legendary edition includes two bonus disks and a replica of a helmet that the game’s main character wears.
More than 1.5 million preorders worldwide have been taken for the game, according to xbox.com, Microsoft’s gaming site. “Halo 3’s” posted preorder numbers exceed any other game in history and will likely overtake “Halo 2’s” 2004 release, which generated $125 million in sales within 24 hours, according to Microsoft.
The release of “Halo 3” is also expected to have a “halo” effect, bringing in customers to purchase new and used Xbox 360 consoles, peripherals such as controllers and hard drives, “Halo”-inspired merchandise and other games. Alex Hilderbrand, a team leader at Slackers, noted that all of the used Xbox 360s the store had were sold in the last few weeks. Spencer Robinson, who also tailgated at Gamestop, said he bought an Xbox 360 just a month ago and preordered “Halo 3” that day.
The game has received a score of 96 out of 100 on metacritic.com, a Web site that averages game reviews from multiple sources into one score. According to marketwatch.com, these reviews and the preorder numbers helped push up Microsoft’s stock by 2.5 percent on Monday afternoon.