Dublin (Ireland) - Microsoft’s Xbox 360 launched in Europe to much fanfare and applaud last night, and despite the fact that most shops sold out in about 30 seconds there haven’t yet been too many complaints from European gamers.
Having been on sale in the United States for over a week now we knew pretty much what to expect when the 360 hit European shop shelves : Small unit quantities in shops, hopeful midnight buying and a lot of quiet come morning when people mysteriously start to call in sick to work.
Being the hip hacks that we are the invites to the Microsoft launch party arrived in the post many weeks ago, the glistening silver envelope it arrived in promising a night of finger food, ambient green lighting and - dare we foul this page with talk of debauchery and traditional hack British journalism - hard drinking.
It’s rather a pity we think that the title ’A Series of Unfortunate Events’ has already been taken and copyrighted, for it would have suited this article like a finely tailored suit. The Xbox 360 launch party in Dublin (hot party town that it is - leave us alone, the Amsterdam party was full, and probably wouldn’t have been half as fun in hindsight) is probably one of the most notable parties of 2005, and not because it heralds the beginning of the "Next Generation of Console Gaming in Europe".
The event was hosted at The Vaults, a club in central Dublin, which was suitably decked out in green, the discerning Xbox 360 marketers’ colour of choice. Problems began right at the front door when the charming bouncers picked out the shortest, most innocent people on the line (of whom one of your dear correspondents was among - I don’t share Mr. McKenna’s 6’5" and angry outdoor look for a face) and demanded I.D.
Unfortunately for most on the press list I.D. is something rarely carried to these events, and despite pleas to check the press list, (after all, how many 16 year old mal contented underage drinkers do you know working as journalists ?) five mirthless hacks were turned away.
Yours truly had the good sense to wait a bit, throwing on a nice snug jumper to protect my apparently youthful body from the brisk December cold, until the head bouncer came over and corrected the mistake. Sadly he was too late for the other five journalists, one of whom went back to her office with tears in her eyes, having to report on the event in what we don’t doubt will now become a rather interesting piece that Microsoft PR people didn’t expect to have to spin this morning.
The party was only starting. As we entered the underground club we noticed a laser (or possibly just a very strong and focused light) beaming the words ’Xbox 360’ around the wall. Not thinking much of it we moved on to get a good vantage point of the entrance where an unlucky soul managed to walk in the door just as the same projected image managed to pass literally right in front of his eyes. The poor chap couldn’t see a thing and had to be led into the party guided by the people he had arrived with, literally blinded by Xbox.
We’re sure the damage wasn’t permanent, but this was beginning to turn into something of a farcical night. Microsoft had set up a bunch of Xbox 360’s to be played by those attending on large screens, as is the custom at a major console launch. Making our way to the consoles (by way of the bar, of course) we were treated to some of the delights the console had to offer, of which Perfect Dark Zero was definitely the highlight.
Attempting to skirt and avoid the pseudo-philosophical gaming crowd, who were discussing aghast at how Project Gotham Racing 3 had no split-screen multiplayer until we pointed out to them that they were playing on a console that didn’t have multiple profiles set up to allow for multiplayer, we wound up with a selection of finger foods in front of our thankfully undamaged eyes.
This is where the third and final (for us, at least) unfortunate event occurred. On offer was a sampling of finger foods including skewered chicken and crab. Our dear boy Marc had to go and tempt fate on this night of all nights and chose to go with the crab. One bite later and he was spitting out the crab into his hand, along with half of one of his molars and its filling.
Lucky for him there has been no pain involved, though just in case it were to become painful after a while we nipped over to the bar once again in order to pre-emptively numb any discomfort that might appear with a concerted session of therapy.
After that it was relatively plain sailing, and we left the party in a cheerful state just in time for the all important one-minute-past-midnight deadline, whence we witnessed shop invasions of not quite epic proportions, but enough that most places sold out in rather short order.
The word today from Microsoft is that they expect the console to be sold out by the end of the day, though we’d say that we got 90 percent of the way there two minutes into it, but they assure us (as if we ever doubted that they wouldn’t) that they’ll be replenishing stocks at regular intervals over the next few weeks leading up to Christmas. Well, we’ll be the judge of that, now won’t we...
Pictures you say ? Well, we weren’t taking any, though we’ll see if anyone at Microsoft was taking shots of the crime scene and get back to you