360s unleashed at Zero Hour

Next generation of gaming hits North America; first Xbox 360s handed out at launch event in Californian desert; full video coverage inside.

PALMDALE, Calif.--When the Xbox burst onto the scene in 2001, gamers were uncertain about its place in the market. With Sony and Nintendo already holding firm footholds in the industry, the bulky black box from Microsoft was entering a battle taking place in a town not big enough for three. Though it had impressive specs and a legendary launch title in Halo: Combat Evolved, many looked at the system and wondered exactly what the PC-oriented company knew about console gaming.

Four years later, it's apparent that Microsoft was merely getting its feet wet in a market that has become one of the most lucrative industries to date. The company has learned from its first foray into gaming and has applied its experience to its latest creation, the Xbox 360.

The obvious first lesson it recognized is the importance to be first on store shelves. The Xbox was not only handicapped by a nonexistent fan base, but it had the misfortune of being late to the party that Sony dominated. This time around, Microsoft beat its opponents to consumers today, as gamers across North America got their hands on the first next-generation console.

To celebrate the momentous occasion, Microsoft organized Zero Hour, a gamer-centric event held in Palmdale, California. The launch party took place in a large airplane hangar over a period of 29 hours, beginning Sunday at 7 p.m. Microsoft invited its consumers to make the trek to Palmdale by way of contests, timely registration, and a stroke of luck. The result was more than three thousand gamers from all over the country converging, with the sole purpose of ushering in this latest milestone in the industry.

Beginning early Monday, Best Buy opened up a makeshift store inside the space, and presold Xbox 360s, games, and accessories. There was little worry about getting a console among gamers, as reps constantly reassured concerned gamers that there would be enough consoles for everyone.

Even with all the free tattoos, complimentary massages, and stage demonstrations from industry luminaries that Microsoft set up to keep attendees entertained, the most exciting portion of the near 30 hours was the moment that the first gamers--real down-to-earth gamers--got their hands on the Xbox 360.

At 8 p.m., San Diego-based rockers Louis XIV, who many may recognize from the anthem to Electronic Arts' SSX on Tour, played a solid 40-minute set on the main stage. Though this was considered one of the main events of Zero Hour, most gamers barely even recognized their performance, as they were lined up to get their Xbox 360s.

Those who pre-bought the systems formed a very lengthy queue that took the shape of a horseshoe and spanned nearly three-fourths of the hangar's interior. Glazed eyes and yawns indicated that those first in line had been there for a while, eager to be among the first to say they were an Xbox 360 owner.

Though the event took place on the West Coast, Microsoft agreed to let Zero Hour attendees get the console early and opted for a 9 p.m. launch time to coincide with East Coast midnight-madness sales.

At 8:54 (360 seconds before launch), the gates to the hangar opened up, revealing a convoy of three large Best Buy trucks, complete with a police escort. Inside those trucks were nearly 3,000 Xbox 360s, packed to the brim in the trucks' cabs. Music reached a feverish tempo, and the interior lights strobed on and off, sending the crowd into a frenzy.

As the vehicles made their way to the Best Buy store, the energy was electric--this was the moment that the gamers had been waiting for. All those hours yearning to play as Joanna Dark, tear through a lap of the Nurburgring, or play high-definition sports games were merely ticks away from becoming reality.

Best Buy assembled an armada of employees to dispatch and hand over the consoles, and once the rear doors to the trucks opened, things reached a fever pitch.

One minute after 9 p.m., the first consoles were given to Edgar Bounds and Mike Bedwilder from Senatobia, Mississippi. The two Xbox fans drove from their homes to Zero Hour without the luxury of breaks, a 30-hour-plus journey. A minor miscalculation saw them arrive to the event a full day early, but for the pair it was merely a blip in the road. They were finalists in the Hex 168 contest, which granted them access to the event, but not the complimentary Xbox 360 and passage that grand prize winners received.

"We've only gotten about 10 hours of sleep in the last week," stated Bedwilder, clearly showing the strains of his gaming devotion and insomnia.

"Once we got that e-mail [declaring the two would be admitted], we knew we were going," said Bounds. Their perseverance paid off, as they instantly became the darlings of the night and subjects of mass media attention. The two were so anxious to get their game on, they nearly left before they could bask in their glory.

From then, the throng of gamers made their way through the line, showing their proofs of purchase. Once face-to-face with a register, they were met by a very enthusiastic group of Best Buy employees, who were slapping fives and congratulating the buyers.

The line was pretty much nonexistent at 45 minutes past the hour, as the procession went fluidly. Those lucky enough to get a 360 quickly took their new prized possessions back to their houses, eager to experience the console on their own setups.

And just like that, Zero Hour came to a close. Looking back on the festivities, it was clear that Microsoft held true to its claims of making the event about the gamers. Though photo opportunities were rare and celeb sightings were minimal, those who attended--the hardcore gamer from every conceivable demographic--appreciated not only the fact that they were there, but the fact that they had the opportunity to be there, a rare instance in today's starstruck industry.

For a complete run-down on Microsoft's next-generation console, visit GameSpot's Xbox 360 Launch Center.

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Discussion

68 comments
AceCometh
AceCometh

I love my Xbox 360 Slim. No RRod, no loud noises as it is whisper quiet just like they say, and I look forward to lots more game time and wonderful software to boot!

MeTaL-HeaD
MeTaL-HeaD

Does it contain PlayBoy pics of Lindsay Lohan???

sly_demon
sly_demon

Just wait the revolutions coming out soon and it'll be worth the wait, anyone who be trashing talking nintendo, be f*cking stupid.

Mc_Flury
Mc_Flury

One more thing, is the 360 really going back as recall?

Mc_Flury
Mc_Flury

One more thing, is the 360 really going back as recall?

Mc_Flury
Mc_Flury

So I looked at the compatible games for the 360 and I didn't even see Conker live and reloaded. Then I looked at compatible games for the XBOX and guess what someones not doing their job... Conker wasn't on there either. Please find out if its compatible for 360.

juanmaflyer
juanmaflyer

I hope the 360 come to Argentina... It's really , really hard but there is a possibility :)

crazy590
crazy590

im such a hardcore xbox fan that i really dont care about the ps3 just a little though

TheHairy
TheHairy

I WAnt One!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Custom__hobo
Custom__hobo

I'm only getting one of these if the Revolution turns out to be crap. I don't care if the consoles got a "single floating point, internal combustion chip microprocessor triple back-flip module" or any sh*t like that. I just want some good games for it. And right now i'm just waiting to see what each console has to offer. PS3 is a complete no way for me, as it's going to cost way too much for what it is. 360 is basically a computer with a wireless controller, well thats all I got out of it. Revolution is just a bit mysteriousl at the moment, but I like the controller design.

penhead455
penhead455

Xbox live is the ultimate online multiplayer experience. The reason I am getting a 360 is xbox live you cant beat it. If sony got something like that sorted they would have a winner in my books. Yeah so sony have some good games but multiplayer is awesome. Imagine MGS4 online.

commando2
commando2

yea i dont have a 360 yet and i wanted one...but from what im hearing im not sure yet... my friend said its awsom but a bunch of ppl on GS are saying its not soo im not sure and the zero hour thing..that bs ppl who pre ordered the premiums got the crappy core ones while the zero hr ppl got the good ones?! thats bs.....nd happy turkey day evry one

mrshowgunds9
mrshowgunds9

yes, thats exactly what Im going to do, save for the PS3. Whats not to like about the PS3??

nemes1s3000
nemes1s3000

They must've gained millions within 12 hours, not a total loss. ;)

Tremblay343
Tremblay343

You guys are just wasting your money. why not wait for the better console, the PS3. The xbox has only a couple of good games and franchises. And besides, the PS3 is just better in almost every aspect. like in scymatics. it's cell processor and stuff like that is like twice the 360. so save up for the PS3!!

vikingsbob
vikingsbob

ive tried at least 10 places in omaha , ne where i live . i couldnt even find a single packaged xbox 360 . my kid wants one for christmas , but i think he'll be dissapointed this year . could someone give me an xbox 360 ??????? by the way , i could not afford the $3700 going price on ebay

mrshowgunds9
mrshowgunds9

Im really not a huge fan of any one console, but I must say... the PS3 looks like it could completely own the 360. We'll see. This new Nintendo piece of crap sounds terrible. One word turns me off........... NINTENDO. The games, the graphics, the everything. Its all terrible.... It'll be interesting to see how the 360 compares to PS3.

games_247
games_247

ALL WANNA IDIOTS WHO BROUGHT XBOX360s ARE REAL FOOLISH. AS SOON AS SOMETHIN COMES OUT U DONT GO AN BUY IT ONE TIME. U SHOULD WAIT A MONTH OR SO, CAUSE BY THEN ALL THE BUGS AN WAT EVERY ELSE IT HAD, MICROSOFT WOULD HAVE **FIX**. SAME THING GOES FOR THE PLAYSTATION 3 & THE REVOLUTION AS SOON AS BOTH OF THEM COMES OUT DONT BUY IT ONE TIME JUST WAIT. I AM NOT ABUSEING OR INSULTING OR NOTTIN LIKE THAT I AM JUST SAYIN DONT MAKE THE MISTAKE AN BE HEART BROKEN. *(JUST WAIT)* ***OH YEA THE PS3 AN XBOX360 ARE BASICLY THE SAME JUST DIFFERENT IN SOME AREAS WHY DA HELL SOME OF WANNA PEOPLE DONT GET DAT IN WANNA HEADS***

Sonicplys
Sonicplys

XBOX 360, REVOLUTION, and PS3 RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

reservoirdog00
reservoirdog00

I was at Zero Hour and it was worth it. Who can complain about free memory cards, games, shirts, tattoos ect? It sounds like you doubters woudln't be happy with MS short of getting a system for free. Take your place in line.

mezonesxbox
mezonesxbox

this event sounded cool but M$ doesn't know how to run a show. Unlike Jp shows!! Those are great!! I saw a lot of long faces, bored people, and a uninvolved event this time, and strangelly no kids!! I only saw old, 18+, freaky people in the show. Thats america for you...

Acudworth53
Acudworth53

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Tikimotel
Tikimotel

World Wide launch is was triggered me to get one! (btw I live in Europe)... PS3 will probably launch in 2007 for Europeans...so wait all you want if you live in Europe...... I will probably get all three consoles anyway (Xbox360, Revolution, PS3)

Sagacious_Tien
Sagacious_Tien

This was nice of M$. It was all about the gamers - and clearly they had enough consoles for them. I'm happy to see M$ went out of their way for gamers in America, as the Japanese have been lucky enough with the M$ Cafe their. Now, if only they had something similar in Australia... (but we don't have a Launch Date yet).

Fed__X
Fed__X

System's usually have bugs at launch sometimes it's best to wait......Like some other gamer's though I too am very disapointed with Microsoft's decision to let Mountain Dew and MTV hand out all those free 360's and not be able to supply the people who pre-ordered them.(We the gamers did get shafted) I'm only getting the system for a couple games any way like GOW and PFDzero plus some on-line game's other than that Sony and Nintendo own me

Fish345
Fish345

I think that if Microsoft want to make more money (which is clearly the objective with the 360) they should release the console at the same time across the world. Im only saying this because coming from England I can't get my hands on one until December 2nd, I know it isn't a long time to wait but I love gaming so I think you can understand how i feel.

nikebballa24
nikebballa24

Every single store in Silicon Valley is completely sold out. Not one has any. I want one!

987199
987199

i got a 360 yesterday and it sucked. i ordered the premium version and got stuck eith core aswell. everytime i playes pdz it froze after about 10 minutes. for all gamers that dont have one dont get it wait for ps3 and revolution! in fact i will probably sell my 360 and get a ps3 and revolution it stead. stick that up your pipe and smoke it microsoft!

kainenable
kainenable

Nice, the event was an interesting contrast to the faked enthusiasm of the original xbox launch. Its cool that MS did it for the gamers, I think it shows more confidence in there product. I am not getting a 360 but i hope it does well, I think the gaming world can handle 3 successfull consoles. Compatition is good.

snarple_basic
snarple_basic

I already feel strong about not buying it and waiting out till all the systems are out, but i have to say is that I like the controller, it felt comfortable in my hands... Un like the first controller xbox came out with... I guess they have the controller thing down.

yon321
yon321

At first i was going to buy an Xbox 360 but now i'm all for the PS3...like the old saying goes, ''All good things come to those who wait''. So i'm going to wait and get the good many many good things the PS3 has to throw at us. As soon as the PS3 is avaidable for pre-order in the UK i'm getting my pre-order into my local game store so i can be on of the first to experience the dream machine.

3xpression
3xpression

Look. First of all. Microsoft did tie in "For The Customers", otherwise Zero Hour would never have happened. But regardless, I believe they went about it all wrong, considering the fact that FELLOW PEOPLE whom dedicated their time and money to 'pre-order' their systems were deprived considering the total amount of systems sent out to Zero Hour. That was a complete lack of preparation, and it will ultimately HURT Microsoft. As you all can read, people are disappointed already, and are opting to sell their 'cores' (the ones they got stuck with after ordering prems). As for Sony and the Playstation 3. Okay, Microsoft had Zero Hour. Wow. You know what this tells Sony? They are going to go OVER the top, trust me. They will blow the industry up, and you know what? They're planning it right now. Its going to be amazing. Just watch. Who's Nintendo again? Ohhh, right right. The T.V. remote controller game-system...wow.

Melgo
Melgo

Well, Europe is getting it in 2 weeks or so. Sorry, for the people who are dissapointed, thats what hype does to you. I will probably wait a few months and see how the situation changes, whether some defects are found etc. and then maybe get one. Though so far it seems that the Xbox360 and PS3 are going to be pretty tied game wise. With the reports of Square-enix bringing DQ and FF to x360 (amongst other things) it seems more of a matter of personal brand preference. Maybe that is what Nintendo is counting on with the revolution, that people will want more than just to compare raw polygon count figures. jordidude: where did you read that revolution won't be online? Nintendo has been saying pretty much since day one that revolution will be online via wireless through the NWC service.

timdoggusd
timdoggusd

Excellent article. I was at Zero Hour and you really captured the moment. Good work Tim!

Coopdeville69
Coopdeville69

If they would have started the contest earlier I would have tried, but I cant take time off work without enough notice so I was left behind. I wish I could have been there to see the sights and sounds of 3k gamers kickin it. I know it would have been one of the moments in my life I'd always reflect on. Oh well I still got my 360.

jordidude
jordidude

Well the 360 still looks like a great console. The Revolution is a "family" console - so Nintendo still seem to be aiming at pre teens then. That makes money! Didn't they learn from the gamecube - no online and no HD!! What a JOKE!

alonso84
alonso84

I went to the local wal mart in my town, (it's the only store, no target, kmarts or best buys around here) and they were all sold out, I heard from one of the workers they had 20 of them, I guess most of them were the $400 version because it still had a whole of memory units, and all the wireless controlers were sold out as well.

Gamer1729
Gamer1729

These people dont have lives.

razzy1
razzy1

I like the Revolution too but C'mon. Rev drinking beer? No way. Rev drinks milk & grapejuice only dammit.

chrishedy
chrishedy

You see, here's how it is. While the 360 and PS3 are bouting it out and they both get knocked out at the same time. Revolution will be sitting there with a beer and popcorn watching the fight. What I'm trying to say is that, I'm going for the Revolution because It's been here since the beginning. I might get a PS3 though if MGS4 has a good in-game style and if Square-Enix continues to make Final Fantasy.

binda
binda

moan,moan,moan,moan,moan.is that all you yanks do

supersim10007
supersim10007

Every store in my town was out. I'll never get an xbox 360!!!!!