Consoul's Blog Consoul Games: XBox360 Australian Launch

Thursday, March 23, 2006

XBox360 Australian Launch

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The official Australian launch event for Microsoft's XBox360 was staged last night in Sydney's Pitt Street Mall, and the heavens opened to rain on their parade. Between the 9pm kickoff and the eventual midnight sales launch, the patchy rain varied between light mist and torrential downpour, but the event went ahead quite successfully regardless. Microsoft laid on free pizza and drinks, plus a wide range of entertainment, including brazilian drummers and capoeiristas, breakdancers, and several performances from the ever-popular cheerleaders. Nova 96.9 broadcast live from the event and Channel V had a couple of crews doing coverage.

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The south end of the mall was filled with demo kiosks and several larger plasma and projection set-ups, ensuring that everyone who wanted to get hands-on with a 360 didn't have to wait too long. Unfortunately all the retail kiosks only had the same Project Gotham Racing 3 and Kameo demos that have been in stores for weeks now. Only three of the bigger display units had Amped 3, Dead Or Alive 4 and Fight Night Round 3 available to play, and they were in pretty high demand. Fight Night Round 3 was far and away the most impressive game visually. It was the only game that was really obviously a generation ahead of anything we've seen before. On the big NEC hi-def plasma, its stunningly lifelike graphics were an absolute knock-out, though the gameplay itself left me cold. As did the rain.

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Much to their credit, the promoters were handing out plastic emergency ponchos to anyone who wanted one. Most people braved the rain without them...until it really started pissing down and then many were happy to forego fashion for dryness. Much of the crowd dispersed at this point. A three man crew kept the remaining crowd entertained with some beat boxing and old school poppin' and lockin'. After winning the crowd's respect, they soon lost it again when they launched into their audience participation promo rap. "When I say X, you say Box, When I say 3, you say 60" - the crowd sympathetically played along to begin with, but when it came to "Everybody say Microsoooft!" the silence was punctuated only by laughter.

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Meanwhile the loyal fans who had actually turned up to collect their pre-orders couldn't see any of the hoopla, as they were all lined up around the corner waiting to get into EB so they could complete any outstanding transactions and receive a ticket that they could trade for their XBox360 at midnight. Still, it's not like they were missing anything... Well, not unless you count a bunch of perky cheerleaders in skimpy white outfits gyrating in the rain as something. The crowd that dispersed earlier miraculously re-appeared when the cheergirls did their raindance.

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Nova's live broadcast may have been good for spreading the word, but they sure lowered the tone of the live event. Their broadcast was blaring out of the on-site PA and while their music was suitably commercial and upbeat, their high rotation advertisements for local brothels and erectile disfunction nasal sprays seemed somehow inappropriate for the family friendly event. The fact that the two idiots hosting Nova's broadcast constantly referred to all the people assembled as "giant nerds" really won over the crowd too.

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As midnight approached, the ticket holders were herded into a taped-off enclosure in front of the main stage area. A promo girl came along offering the guys at the front free XBox360 caps which they accepted and put on. One guy declined, but the cap was thrust back toward him. "Just take the hat," the girl said, "it's for the money shot." Suitably reassured that the cap would provide him with some protection from the impending money shot, he donned the cap as instructed. With only minutes to go there was a quick jolt of the emerging dance craze krumping and clowning, followed by a final cheerleading routine to the 80's strains of "Living On a Prayer". With seconds to go there was a quick countdown before the screen dropped, the tape was released and a fun-run style rush for XBox360's ensued. (Download and watch the video here.) A few gamers actually tripped over the screen that had dropped and thanks to wet shoes a bit of a pile-up occurred, though unfortunately I didn't catch that in the video.

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So the happy pre-order folk were finally able to pick up their 360's and go home, the media got a nice shot of the crowd stampeding in, and Microsoft pulled off a pretty impressive launch event despite the weather. Perhaps the other winner of the night was the homeless and sanity-challenged man who spent the night wandering about muttering to himself and scarfing pizza and Coke Zero. He came away with a full belly, a new hat and several emergency ponchos. Everybody wins.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous TPot said...

Good writeup. Wish I was there. Thanks for the cheerleader (money shot) pics.

10:00 am  

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