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Last Updated: Friday, 2 December 2005, 03:13 GMT
X-appeal turns on UK gamers
By John Brunsdon
BBC News website

A nine-hour queue in the cold and wet is just the thing to bring out the British spirit - where else can you make 100 new friends, and then beat the hell out of them.

"Oh yeah, every single one of them!" - Richard Tiah was one of more than 200 die-hard gamers waiting outside London's Oxford Street Game store for the UK launch of Microsoft's next-generation Xbox 360.

Kevin Sage with his new Xbox 360
Kevin Sage was the first to get his hands on the Xbox 360
Richard was one of the first in line, having arrived at 3pm for the midnight opening.

"The atmosphere has been really good", he said. "I've spoken to about 100 people and got their tags, [online gaming names], so I'll be taking them on tonight once I get back."

The 22-year-old police communications officer (tag Pro-enegmatic1) was one of the lucky ones - he had his Xbox pre-ordered and waiting for him in the store.

But there were also those there more in hope than expectation - with limited supplies those queuing on the off-chance of picking a spare console up were likely to be disappointed.

That didn't stop Kenny Salami from trying his luck. Joining the back of the queue that stretched down Oxford Street and back round the block.

"There's always optimism", he said - though his admission that he expected to be back at 7am on Friday to see if there were any unclaimed consoles for sale suggested that there wasn't much.

I might have a sneaky play when I get back
Kelly Hanford

No-one was planning an early night, those who hadn't had the foresight to take the next day off were either planning on a lot of coffee with their breakfast or a convenient sick day - the Xboxes were going to see a lot of use before dawn.

Even Kelly Hanford, who had queued from 6pm to get a console as a Christmas present for her husband, wasn't getting the wrapping paper out straight away: "I might have a sneaky play when I get back," she admitted.

While the orderly queue and the weather were all very British, the razzmatazz surrounding the launch owed more to the console's trans-Atlantic roots.

An Xbox-green laser lit-up the face of the Centre Point tower, while search-lights strafed the rain clouds - outshining Oxford Street's traditional festive display as if to say "That's just Christmas, this is a happening".

Richard Tiah queuing outside Game
Richard Tiah waited nine hours for his Xbox

A fleet of branded Mini-Coopers convoyed past the queue, looking like a gamer's version of The Italian Job - this particular Italian job being pizza delivery as the beautiful young things inside leapt out to keep spirits up with free slices in boxes helpfully emblazoned "Eat Me" in case those whose feet were numbed with queuing were tempted to line their socks with them.

Inside the store, the hype rolled on.

Kevin Sage, the first man in the queue, entered to a sound system pumping out Pharrell Williams' "Can I Have it Like That", flashbulbs popping as he punched the air like a heavyweight champion on his way to the ring.

"Will you remember where you were when Microsoft launched its Xbox 360?", a pumped-up announcer yelled. "You can proudly say you were there!"

Not quite the assassination of Kennedy or the Moon landing, but those who had been waiting for hours outside were happy to bear witness to what they hope will be a giant leap for console gaming.


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