Security fears cool London Halo 3 launch fever

Westminster Council advises retailers against midnight openings in the capital, but stores outside the city still open their doors.

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While the launch of Halo 3 has been generally successful, Microsoft UK faced a number of problems before it finally released the game last night. First of all, catalog retailer Argos was reported to have started allowing collection of the game a full week ahead of its official release date although the retailer soon corrected what it described as a glitch on its Web site.

Westminster Council also expressed concerns about the crowds descending on the centre of London for midnight launches of the game, which caused all of the major retailers to cancel any special events at their flagship stores. As a result, major chains Game and Gamestation chose Manchester and Birmingham for their respective main launch events.

Game's regional manager James Crane explained the company's reasoning behind local launches. "We had discussions with the Metropolitan Police [London's police force] and we think it's probably going to be better for customers by not doing a midnight launch at Oxford Street. It's going to be safer and easier for them to travel in the morning and there'll be over 150 stores opening tonight at midnight, so those that do want to get the game at midnight will have a store that they can go to."

While Westminster's security fears may have been well-founded, GameSpot saw nothing at Kent's Bluewater Shopping Centre, located some 20 miles from the centre of London, that could be described as confrontational. A queue of around 40 people waited patiently at each of the centre's two Game stores. Those in attendance ranged from young men and women to parents and children (many of whom would be younger than the '15' BBFC certificate the game received in the UK), but there was certainly no hint of any problems. The Game Bluewater events had a relaxed feel to them, with many people casually filtering into the store after dining out or going to the cinema.

Outside the Bluewater store, Halo fans Adrian and Wayne queued from 7 p.m. to get their hands on the game. Wayne was one of the few people who managed to preorder the Legendary Edition, saying "I preordered the game back in May, and it's a piece of memorabilia, a piece of history, as far as I'm concerned." Adrian added, "You think of Xbox games, and you think of Halo--it's raised the bar that little bit higher."

While the retailer says its customers will have no trouble going into any of its stores and buying a copy of Halo 3 today, there appears to be little chance that they'll find the Legendary Edition of the game. Game said that its limited run of stock, which retails for £69.99 ($140) in the UK, had sold out on preorders, and those who hadn't placed a preorder wouldn't be able to secure a copy at this stage. With this edition of the game already reaching prices of £100 ($200) and above on eBay, it seems that those who did preorder made a wise investment.

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