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15 years ago, the Xbox 360 launched in the desert. It was a wild event.

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By Adam Rosenberg2020-11-22 19:27:04 UTC "Everyone here who wants a 360 will be able to leave with a 360." In these new console-starved times, when pre-orders are hard to come by, it's hard to imagine anyone uttering such an outlandish statement. But that's exactly what a Best Buy rep said 15 years ago, on Nov.…
15 years ago, the Xbox 360 launched in the desert. It was a wild event.

By Adam Rosenberg2020-11-22 19:27:04 UTC

“Everyone here who wants a 360 will be able to leave with a 360.”
In these new console-starved times, when pre-orders are hard to come by, it’s hard to imagine anyone uttering such an outlandish statement. But that’s exactly what a Best Buy rep said 15 years ago, on Nov. 22, 2005, as Microsoft launched the Xbox 360 at a blockbuster “Zero Hour” event in the Mojave Desert.
“Our goal with the launch event is to reward the gamer by creating the ultimate Xbox 360 oasis,” former Xbox exec Peter Moore said at the time. “Gamers at ‘Zero Hour’ will have bragging rights to say ‘I spent over 24 hours at the epicenter of the gaming universe, and I was among the first generation of the next generation of gaming.”
Microsoft staged the Zero Hour event in an enormous hangar, clearing out the space to make way for an event stage and a small army of gaming stations surrounded by beanbag chairs. The whole scene was further accentuated by the color green, a hallmark of the Xbox brand. Even the building exterior featured green lighting.

IGN’s 2005 reporting on Zero Hour described the event as a space-age setting of techno music and white domes reminiscent of Spaceball City. The domes housed important information about key Xbox services and features, as well as… alcohol. The booze probably played a role in the subsequent beanbag chair fight that broke out in front of the hangar.
“While we were asking questions a cacophony of screams and yells started up behind us. We turned around to find that the crowd of people that had been sitting silently in front of the hangar door had suddenly transformed into a pack of raging beasts intent on destroying all that was free and shaped like a mushroom,” IGN’s report reads. “Yes, pre-launch excitement had culminated in a wild bean bag chair tossing fiasco, which was actually pretty funny.”

Image: FilmMagic for G4 Media LLC

Image: FilmMagic for G4 Media LLC
The multi-day event was a little bit press event, a little bit fan convention. Launch parties like this aren’t unusual when new consoles launch, but this one stands out for its location and unusual environment. The Mojave Desert isn’t exactly a major media market, but the hangar event space offers an impressive visual.
Gizmodo’s 2005 coverage described the whole thing in hilarious terms: Burning Man as interpreted by Microsoft marketeers. That description is entirely earned, as one Microsoft employee told the site that the resemblance is purposeful. The same report also notes an interesting bit of trivia: The hangar was used in the shooting of a Mission: Impossible movie. Twist!

I checked and my inactive Flickr account still has my (terribly low res) photos from the event. Enjoy this walk down memory lane. Let me know if anyone sees themselves! https://t.co/c1xDI2AYUWThis was will always be a very special event for me.
— Larry Hryb (@majornelson) November 22, 2020

Events like this used to be much more common in the gaming world. I wasn’t at Zero Hour, but could tell all sorts of stories. About the Call of Duty review event held at a Palm Springs resort that felt like a scene out of The Prisoner. Or separate Florida events hosted by Capcom and Midway (R.I.P.) that were basically just an excuse to ply the media with booze in Miami. None of these events can make a bad game good, but that didn’t stop the corporate powers-that-be from trying!
Those kinds of events are thankfully more a relic than a normal occurrence these days, even when there’s not a raging pandemic keeping people locked in their homes. But these big, expensive, and totally overblown gatherings definitely brought some great photo opps.

Look at this legend.
Image: FilmMagic for G4 Media LLC

Image: FilmMagic for G4 Media LLC

Image: FilmMagic for G4 Media LLC

G4 hosts Adam Sessler and Morgan Webb
Image: FilmMagic for G4 Media LLC

Image: FilmMagic for G4 Media LLC
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