Midnight slowly approaches, and the festivities ramp up. Everywhere camera crews are coaxing large groups of players to shout, trying to punctuate their local news stories with the old cheering crown trick. The Mountain Dew people are there every time I turn around, passing around their cough syrup-flavored beverage. As hip-hop artists play Halo 3 inside, line sitters hold up signs making rude assumptions about the diet of a certain Florida lawyer. A group of guys are wandering around wearing GTA IV T-shirts, handing out posters and having people pose with them at the H3 launch. Good times are being had by all, but that clock is ticking...Outside the Best Buy, security guards begin clearing a path from the street to the door, and everyone assumes that Master Chief is going to arrive in some spectacular fashion, but we were wrong. Master Chief suddenly appears in the store with Larry Hryb, and after a few moments he signals that it is time. Time for what?
Engines rev somewhere down the street, and around the corner come three marines, riding Mongooses. Mongeese? Either way, they look extremely cool. Then another engine revs, and in comes... a highly decorated Hummer. Damn, we were really hoping for the Warthog, but you take what you can get. Master Chief comes out of the store to sign off on the symbolic crate of Halo 3 games, and the selling begins. As the first two in line take the stage, a special guest comes up with them. It's Ludacris, who is there simply for the fact that "Hey everybody, it's Ludacris!" He doesn't really even say much of anything... he's just there to lend the game some street cred. Lovely.
The night begins to wind down and I start looking for a cab to take me to the airport so I can return to Atlanta, where my copy of Halo 3 was waiting for me. As I reflected on the events of the day, I realised that I just experienced the game industry's version of TRL. People lining the streets, random hip hop artists and athletes stopping by, PR and marketing people working the crowd - it was a spectacle of marketing and promotion done the way only Microsoft could do it.
Finally, it is done.