Things to keep in mind as Halo: Reach hits shelves

The holiday season kicks off tonight for gamers. At 12:01am,
“Halo Reach,” the first blockbuster of the fall/winter goes on sale. It will
lead the charge of a densely packed 3.5-month period of major game releases
that will determine how 2010 turns out for the video game industry.

Now, normally, you wait for sales numbers before calling a
release a blockbuster – but when you’re dealing with a new action-based “Halo”
game, you can skip the formality. The franchise has sold over 34 million copies
and consumed 3.3 billion hours of gameplay (that’s over 376,000 years, if
you’re keeping score at home) since its launch with the original Xbox.

My colleague Marc Grasier took an in-depth
look at the franchise
itself a little over a week ago. And we’ll have a
review of the game up on Wednesday, but in the meantime, here are a few things
to keep in mind as you wait on your copy of the game.

* The Xbox 360’s installed base is now three times as large
as it was for “Halo 3” – which, at its release three years ago, set new
entertainment industry records.

* 2.7 million people took part in the beta test of the game
in May.

* The game will go on sale in more than 25 countries

* According to Microsoft, “tens of thousands” of stores are
hosting midnight launch parties.

* Microsoft plans to take over Times Square with a party and
concert celebrating the release of the game. Hip-hop star Kid Cudi will perform
– and Spike TV will air it all live starting at 11:33pm ET. Four other parties
are planned in Seattle, London, Norway and Sweden.

* There are three versions of the game available at retail.
The standard $60 version, a $80 limited version and a $150 legendary version.