By Martin Vedris

SYDNEY: Microsoft today announced that its 360 Halo 3 game for the Xbox has broken all existing entertainment launch records for first day sales in Australia with sales of over $6 million in just 24 hours.

In the lead-up to 25 September Australian launch, the volume of pre-orders for Halo 3 had already made it the fastest pre-selling game in history. By the close of the first day, more than 50,000 copies had been sold, making the game’s debut the biggest first-day digital entertainment release ever in Australia.

According to a statement by Microsoft today, the Australian success was repeated just hours later overseas, with the launch generating an estimated $195 million (US$170 million) in sales in the US alone in the first 24 hours. Microsoft stated that this also made it officially the biggest entertainment launch in US history, beating previous records set by blockbuster movie releases like Spider-Man 3 and novels such as Harry Potter.

“We are thrilled with the success of Halo 3 in Australia, and with the fact that a quarter of all Xbox 360 owners rushed out to buy Halo 3 on day one,” said Microsoft Australia’s Xbox Director David McLean.

“Along with the recent price drop, we hope the success of Halo 3 will consolidate the Xbox 360’s market leading position.”

Retailers also expressed their excitement with Tony Pagano, commercial director for GAME saying, “The buzz in stores for Halo 3 has been phenomenal and we’re thrilled to be a part of the biggest entertainment release of the year.”

Halo 3 is the conclusion to the epic trilogy and picks up where Halo 2 left off, answering questions around the fates of the beloved protagonist Master Chief and his artificial intelligence sidekick Cortana as they struggle to save humankind from destruction at the hands of the alien coalition known as the Covenant. In addition to the storyline, Halo 3 continues the franchise’s tradition of delivering online multiplayer experience via Xbox LIVE.

According to statistics released by Microsoft, one million gamers connected to the Xbox LIVE online gaming service in the first day, making it the most active day in Xbox LIVE history. Halo 2 logged 690,000 multiplayer games on day one. Halo 3 logged 2.4 million games on day one. There were 2.5 million campaign levels played around the world in the first 24 hours.

Halo and Halo 2 have sold nearly 15 million copies worldwide (in Xbox and PC versions). Microsoft expects that by the end of the year gamers will have spent more than $1.35 billion (US$1 billion) on the Halo franchise. In comparison, the Halo 2 release on November 9, 2004, set entertainment history by generating US$125 million in US sales in its first 24 hours.