By Craig Zammit

SYDNEY: Over 600 people attended the official Xbox 360 launch party in wet conditions at the EB Games store in Sydney’s Pitt St Mall last night which celebrated the 12:01am release of Microsoft’s next generation console in Australia.

Gaming retailers including EB Games joined other electrical retailers such as JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman to open at midnight last night to capture an expected $40 million in Xbox 360 sales over the next 24 hours in Australia and New Zealand.

“Tonight we’ve got 350 retailers from Australia and New Zealand that are open at midnight, and we’re expecting somewhere between 20,000 and 30,000 people to turn out Australia-wide,” Xbox product manager, Mark Lenyszyn told at the launch party hours prior to the midnight release.

“It was extremely busy; there were 600 people at the launch last night, and even upon opening this morning at 7.00am there were people already here waiting,” said an EB Games staff member who closed his store at 2.00am this morning only to reopen it five hours later.

The official launch event saw gaming enthusiasts kept entertained with numerous hands-on demonstration screens, dancing girls and free food while enduring the final hours of their epic wait in the pouring rain.

“For gaming fans in particular this has been a long time coming. People have been looking forward to high definition next generation gaming for a quite a while and to see it finally in our own backyards is exciting,” said Lenyszyn.

“This launch has been on par with anything that’s happened in New York, London, or Taiwan. To draw tens of thousands of people out of their homes on a Wednesday night to buy a console is a big thing,” said Lenyszyn.

The success of the Xbox 360 in Australia is dependent on supporting software titles and Microsoft has confirmed that over 80 games will be available by June this year. Last night Project Gotham Racing 3 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion were the most popular titles with the crowds, with fighting game Dead Or Alive 4, to be released next week, also drawing a substantial amount of interest.
However, the biggest question for both retailers and consumers of the Xbox 360 revolves around stock availability.

“We basically have enough units to fill our pre-orders. The first shipment completely sold-out through pre-orders alone and as soon as stock arrives we will be calling the waiting customer to come and pick it up. It’ll be a bit longer before we have stock for the actual store,” said the EB Games staff member.

“We (Microsoft) did a survey of people who pre-ordered the Xbox 360 and 52 per cent of them said they weren’t turning up at work today. Even those who do make it in may be a bit weary eyed, we’re expecting a lot of sleepless nights ahead for gaming fans,” said Lenyszyn.