Some gamers got an early start on playing Halo 2, staying up all night Monday to nab copies of the game at 12:01am.
San Francisco game enthusiast Estevan Plata knew it was coming, and experience told him that if he wanted to be first he had better be early. So nearly six hours before the release of Halo 2--the follow-up to the most successful title ever released for Microsoft's Xbox--the quiet young man patiently came, stood ready, and watched a stream of hardcore gamers line up behind him.
It's unlikely that the game will sell out, but many in the crowd said they simply didn't want to wait any longer than they had to and were eager to hear the gunshots of this first-person shooter game. That's likely music to the ears of console makers and game publishers, who this holiday season will be looking to capitalize on the rapidly growing game industry, which is challenging the popularity of the movie industry.
The line for buying the game was reminiscent of lines for blockbuster movie debuts, without the red carpet or celebrity sightings. Sharing tips and talking about their favorite parts of other games helped to pass the time for these gamers, mostly young men, as intermittent sprinkles turned to a light rain by the time the doors opened.
"I don't mind the wait--I thought it would be worse," said Aaron Williams, 22. Williams and one of his roommates, Raphael Suter, 22, are planning a Halo 2 competition with their friends this weekend.
"I want it as soon as possible, and I don't plan on getting any sleep tonight," said Daniel Jongeward, 21, who showed up around 10pm. He said this was the first time he'd ever waited in line for a game, but he's been waiting two years for the release of Halo 2, and he was getting impatient. The game has been long delayed, causing a near frenzy among its fans.
"It's kinda sad what we're doing," Suter said of waiting for a game that would still be available in a few hours. "But it's worth it. I'll be passed out at the controller when others are just getting their copies."
What's so great about this game? Some are interested in seeing the new weapons and vehicles or in being able to use two weapons at the same time ("dual wielding"). Others, such as Jongeward, are looking forward to the feature that allows Xbox Live subscribers to compete with one another online.
"There's always potential for someone online to be able to beat you," Jongeward said.
But not if you get your copy earlier, play all night, and master the game before everyone else--something Plata intended to do as he quickly headed home after getting his copy. He'll want to work his way up the ranks in Halo 2 before he prepares to get in line again for Half-Life 2, which is due to be released November 16.
And he's already got bragging rights for his first-in-line achievement. That could be a salve to his runner-up status a couple of weeks ago, when he was second in line for a copy of another eagerly anticipated game, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
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