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International: Microsoft Scores With 'Halo 3'

International: Microsoft Scores With 'Halo 3'

Author | Source: Advertising Age | Wednesday, Sep 26,2007 9:34 AM

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International: Microsoft Scores With 'Halo 3'

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Can Master Chief take down Spider-Man?

While the exact final tally is still out on the "Halo 3" video game, which stars Master Chief, many analysts and industry insiders are estimating the game will bring in between $155 million and $200 million today, its first day on the market. That would best the previous topper for opening-day sales, this summer's blockbuster flick "Spider-Man 3," which took in a record $151 million at the box-office its opening weekend.

Thousands line up
Regardless of the actual number though, there's no doubt "Halo 3" succeeded on marketing during Halo Day 1. Thousands of fans lined up at midnight at some 10,000 stores around the country to be the first to buy and play. Hundreds more attended "Halo 3" party launches with celebrities in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Seattle -- the last location featured Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, who signed and handed out the first "Halo 3" game copy. Preorders of the game were well over 1 million, according to Microsoft. Reviews for the game have been overwhelmingly positive, likely to spur even more sales.

But it is just day one, and Microsoft's ambition is for "Halo 3" to spark a super holiday season for its Xbox 360 video-game console franchise. After a dismal summer in which the company had to contend with a major recall of the consoles, and getting beat every month by Nintendo's surprise hit and brisk seller Wii, a "Halo" sales and marketing hit is just what the company needs.

Branded consoles
Besides software -- which is being sold in $60, $70 and $120 versions -- Microsoft is offering special "Halo 3" branded consoles, as well as accessories including wireless controllers and headsets, not to mention revenue to be made on licensing deals for T-shirts, clothing and other branded merchandise. But even more importantly is the potential impact, the so-called halo effect, on Xbox 360 console sales. Because "Halo 3" is exclusive to the Xbox 360 (that is, you have to have the console to play), company executives and industry analysts expect to see a jump in console sales. Wedbush Morgan predicted Xbox 360 will sell 400,000 units this month, up from about 130,000 in August.

"There are an awful lot of 'Halo 1' and 'Halo 2' fans, players who had no reason to buy a 360 until now," said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Associates. "This is the first big motivator to get those guys to upgrade. I think Microsoft will see a great boost in console sales."

Still, Microsoft will likely be battling Wii this holiday season as Nintendo's console shows little sign of slowing sales in the U.S. and a slew of new Nintendo and third-party titles get ready to launch. Wii sales have topped 4 million in the U.S., closing in on Microsoft's 6 million sold to date, according to the NPD Group. Sony's PlayStation 3 has sold a distant third 1.75 million.

"This is an event thing around Halo 3 and that will eventually run out, while the Wii continues as a ongoing engaging platform," Mr. Enderle said.

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