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'Halo 3' launches in the NYC

Gamers line up to be the first to play.

It's officially play time.

After three years of making do with Halo 2, eager gamers lined up at Best Buy in midtown Manhattan to be among the first in the nation to buy the third and final title in the series.

The companies--Best Buy and Microsoft--knew how to throw a party. There was lots of swag--T-shirts, caps, Mountain Dew, even hand massages--at a ritual quickly becoming the norm for any major launch these days. Sure, it's fun to be a part of the excitement and feel the energy of an eager crowd waiting for the clock to strike midnight--but is it necessary?

There were only about a hundred loyal fans lined up and ready to shell out their hard-earned cash. Still, even knowing that there was no risk of supply running low, there seems to be something about partaking in this sort of events. Having covered several of them now for CNET, I've come to the conclusion that it's more about the camaraderie of sharing your hobby with a like-minded group of strangers than being the first to experience whatever is hawked at the midnight-launch du jour's.