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Last Updated: Monday, 15 November, 2004, 11:55 GMT
Christmas comes early for gamers
The GTA: San Andreas pack, Rockstar
Lots of UK gamers are spending time in San Andreas state
November is turning out to be a bumper month for players of computer games.

Both the hugely popular GTA: San Andreas and Halo 2 games have gone on sale and have become the fastest selling titles of all time.

At the same time, a new version of the massively popular online fantasy game Everquest has been released.

And still to come is the long-awaited launch of Half-Life 2 on 16 November. Then later in the month Metroid Prime 2 is also due.

Top titles

Millions of people are going to have very sore thumbs and empty wallets by the time Christmas comes around.

The season of great games was started by the release of GTA: San Andreas at the end of October.

The fifth outing in the Grand Theft Auto franchise, San Andreas has been hailed as the best yet by reviewers.

In it players take on the role of CJ who has to clear his name and establish himself in the sprawling fictional state of San Andreas.

Image of Halo 2, Microsoft
Big guns and green armour - must be Halo 2
In a statement issued soon after GTA: San Andreas went on sale, the UK's Entertainment & Leisure Software Publishers Association said it had become the fastest selling title of all time.

"Perhaps for the first time, we have seen the kind of buzz which one would normally only associate with the release of a blockbuster movie," said Roger Bennett, Elspa director general.

In only nine days the game, that runs on the PlayStation 2 console, racked up sales of more than one million copies.

The interest furore around computer games continued with the release of Halo 2 for the Xbox on 11 November in the US.

Fans queued until midnight at games stores to be among the first to get their hands on the continuing adventures of Master Chief.

Microsoft claimed that first day sales of the game had topped $100m. Most of the cash for opening day sales came from pre-orders.

Almost un-noticed went the new release of the online game Everquest which promises better graphics and a whole new world for players to explore and adventure in.

Some of the voices in the game have been provided by film stars Heather Graham and Christopher Lee.

Once they have bought the game, players must also pay a monthly fee to keep their character live. The original version of Everquest now has 750,000 active accounts.

Next big thing

But the furore around these games could be eclipsed by the long-awaited arrival of Half-Life 2 which is due to be released on 16 November.

The original Half-Life was released in 1998 and its sequel has been promised and delayed many times since. Early reviews suggest that the continuing adventures of Gordon Freeman, the central character, will prove as compelling second time around.

Memory chips, Eyewire
PC owners are beefing up their machines ready for Half-Life 2
Although the game will be on sale in shops, many keen gamers will be getting hold of their copies via the online arm of Half-Life creator Valve.

The mad month of games will extend almost to the end of November as Metroid Prime 2: Echoes for the GameCube goes on sale.

And it is not just games makers that are enjoying the boom. Firms that sell hardware to boost the performance of PCs are reporting rising sales as players try to keep up with the demands of games such as Far Cry, Doom 3 and Half-Life 2.

A spokesman for memory sales firm Crucial said it had noticed an uptick in sales of high performance memory chips that matches the release patterns of the PC games.

Rob Fahey, editor of the website, said the fact that all these titles were sequels was helping their success.

"A game like Halo or Half-Life took several years to reach their multi-million sales figures, but the majority of the people who bought those games in the two years after launch will want the sequel on day one," he told the BBC News website.

"So you get an amazing opening weekend," he said.

Mr Fahey said that the fact that the existing crop of consoles were approaching the end of their lives also favoured sequels.

He expected new franchises to start appearing in 2005/6 as the next generation of consoles make their debut.

But, he added, the growing interest in games looked set to expand.

"The demographic that games appeal to is growing wider and wider on an ongoing basis," he said. "This is still an entertainment medium with a lot of growing to do."

GTA sequel is criminally good
02 Nov 04 |  Technology
Long-awaited Doom 3 hits the UK
13 Aug 04 |  Technology
Half-Life sequel ups the ante
08 Sep 03 |  Technology
Metroid falls short of prime
21 Mar 03 |  Reviews
Halo sequel delivers on the hype
08 Nov 04 |  Technology

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