News from the virtual world:
— HUGE "HALO": Of course, "Halo 3" had the biggest first-day sales of any video game in history. The thing was practically unavoidable; you could even buy it at 7-Eleven.
If "Halo 3" hadn't done boffo numbers, Microsoft executives would have been hung by their joystick thumbs and the Xbox 360 would be pretty much dead.
Instead, Bill Gates' minions were crowing over $170 million in sales on day one, $300 million after the first week, and calling it "the biggest entertainment launch in history."
The first figure easily surpasses the first-day box office record set by "Spider-Man 3" and is probably pretty close to the amount that "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" pulled in during its first 24 hours on sale.
But $170 million works out to, at most, 2.83 million copies of "Halo 3" — a fraction of the estimated 6 million "Spidey" tickets or 8.3 million "Harry Potter" books that sold in the United States on their respective premiere days.
With nearly 5 million "Halo 3" discs floating around, there were bound to be some problems. Some gamers who bought the $70 limited-edition package, which comes in a metal case, found that their discs were scratched; Microsoft has offered to replace them.
Xbox Live also suffered a few hiccups early, as 1 million people flooded online to play the new game against each other.
As for the game itself: The single-player campaign is merely average, but the multiplayer options are phenomenal. Fans of online shoot-'em-ups will be playing "Halo 3" for years to come.
— BAND CAMP: We've been jonesing for "Rock Band" ever since Electronic Arts and MTV Games first announced it, even with the knowledge that the entire package — including software, guitar, microphone and drum kit — was going to cost much more than a typical game.
Now we know how much we'll have to set aside: $170 for the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 version, due Nov. 23, or $160 for the PlayStation 2 model, due Dec. 10.
The PS2 date is a nice holiday surprise; it hadn't been expected until next year. Still no word on a Wii edition.
Meanwhile, Activision has somehow coaxed the surviving Sex Pistols back into the studio to re-record their classic punk anthem "Anarchy in the U.K." for inclusion in "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock."
"I like it because my friends' kids like it," said guitarist Steve Jones. "And I like what kids like."
Boy, do we feel old.
"'Guitar Hero' fans have been requesting more punk rock in the game since its first iteration," said Activision music executive Tim Riley.
No kidding. So far the only punk bands that have made it into "GH" are the Ramones and the Stooges. To paraphrase Iggy Pop, we want more.
— SPACE QUEST: Richard Garriott, the computer-game pioneer who created the fantasy world of "Ultima," is about to conquer a new frontier: space.
He has spent $30 million for the chance to ride a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan to the international space station in October 2008.
Garriott is one of gaming's most likable eccentrics. He once went by the name Lord British and he lives in a medieval-style mansion in Austin, Texas.
His father was an astronaut, and Garriott said, "I grew up believing that space was going to be available for everyone at some point in the future."
— NEW IN STORES: Nintendo's "The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass" (for the DS) leads a parade of familiar franchises that are returning this week, including "Spider-Man: Friend or Foe" (Activision, for the Xbox 360, Wii, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable and DS), "Crash of the Titans" (Sierra, for the 360, Wii, PS2 and DS), "Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow" (Sony, for the PSP) and "Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol" (Nintendo, for the DS). ... Microsoft's urban driving series returns to the 360 in "Project Gotham Racing 4." ... 2K Sports' "NBA 2K8" (360, PlayStation 3, PS2) and EA Sports' "NBA Live 08" (360, Wii, PS3, PS2, PSP) are ready to tip off, while 2K also gears up for the World Series with "MLB Power Pros" (Wii, PS2). ... And now for something completely different: Atari's microgame collection "Hot Pxl," for the PSP.