NEW YORK (CNN/Money) – Gamers around the country cheered the start of Doomsday Tuesday, with copies of id Software's much-anticipated "Doom 3" flying off shelves, according to retailers.
"It's blowing the doors off the stores," said Best Buy spokesperson Brian Lucas. "It's going to be one the biggest-selling weeks for PC gaming that we've seen."
Best Buy (BBY: Research, Estimates), hoping to ride the wave of excitement the game has created, opened six stores nationwide at midnight Tuesday to begin sales. Lucas said hundreds of people, ranging in age from mid-teens to people in their 50s, bought the game.
Sporting graphics that are nearly on par with today's computer-generated movies (such as Shrek and Finding Nemo), "Doom 3" represents a technical high point for the gaming industry – and is expected to be a sales phenomenon. Gary Cooper, an analyst with Banc of America Securities, forecasts publisher Activision will ship between 700,000 and 800,000 copies worldwide by the end of September.
"Given the strong PC market in Europe, 'Doom 3' has the potential to sell even better internationally than in the U.S.," he added in a research note.
The game could have further reaching impact, as well. Because it offers such sophisticated graphics, many players will likely upgrade their current computers. Lucas said a good percentage of the people who turned out at the midnight sales also bought mice specifically designed for gaming, additional memory and high quality computer speakers. Circuit City (CC: Research, Estimates) said it plans to offer special prices on video cards and PC memory alongside the game.
Click here for hands-on impressions of Doom 3.
"The releases of 'Doom 3' and 'Half-Life 2' may be more responsible for more computer upgrades than any other factor in the past several years," said Cooper. "This could revive a PC games sales environment that has not seen a year-over-year weekly sales increase in units or dollars since the end of February 2003."
The enthusiasm over the game is two-fold. First and foremost is the game's widespread appeal. While most PC games have trouble breaking into the mainstream, "Doom" has been a part of pop culture for 11 years – and an estimated 15 million copies of the original game have been sold or downloaded. As such, casual gamers will be in the checkout line along with hardcore enthusiasts.
"Doom 3" also represents the latest push against a long-standing price barrier in the gaming industry. At $55, it's $5 higher than the traditional price for AAA-titles. If the game exceeds expectations, it's possible other anticipated titles could bump their prices as well.
That's a far cry from the original game, which was available free to anyone who wanted to download it. Players who enjoyed it and wanted to unlock additional levels were required to pay $40.
|Fearsome monsters stalk the halls in "Doom 3".
At the very least, PC hardware manufacturers stand to gain, given the game's sizable system requirements. Graphic chip manufacturer nVidia (NVDA: Research, Estimates), in particular, hopes to see a sales bump, as id Software, developers of "Doom 3," have named its GeForce FX as the recommended card for the game.
Pushing technical envelopes is nothing new for the "Doom" series. The original game, released in 1993, was a major force in making three-dimensional graphics the de facto standard for the industry. It was a frenetic, shoot-everything-that-moves title that gave birth to the first-person shooter genre. While it offered a single-player game, the focus proved to be on its multiplayer aspects, allowing players to compete directly against each other.
"Doom 3" is a bit more sophisticated. While you'll still take out plenty of demons and ghouls, the game has a much slower pace – and uses shadows, light and other tricks of its advanced graphics engine to create an atmosphere of suspense. An experienced scriptwriter was brought in to help shape the plot. And the focus this time is largely on the single-player game.
You'll play a Marine, freshly assigned to the Mars research facility of United Aerospace Corp. After giving you a little time to get oriented, all hell breaks loose – literally. For reasons you'll discover through the course of the game, demons have invaded the base – and pretty much all of your former co-workers are now zombies, looking to take you down.
On the surface, it's a not-uncommon video game story. But when combined with the startlingly realistic graphics id has created, it's a terrifying experience. Early reviews are glowing, with PC Gamer giving it 94 percent (out of 100), one of the highest scores that magazine has bestowed in years. (An Xbox version of the game will ship at an undetermined future date.)
Though it didn't officially hit shelves until midnight Tuesday, copies of the game were sporadically available for days at select locations, as some retailers turn a blind eye to the embargo date. Gamer feedback from those who have played has been enthusiastic.
"I have fond memories of the first time I played certain games...mario, doom, duke3d, mortal kombat," wrote one early player on Shacknews.com. "Last night, with Doom3, I was conciously aware that I was building just such a moment, which hasn't happened in a very long time."
Another wrote "I played it for about 1.5 hours this morning. ... I had to stop. It's too intense."
There is, of course, an inevitable downside to retailers breaking the embargo. Pirated copies of the game began appearing on peer-to-peer networks last weekend.