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GAME springs £9.99 Beatles bonus at Cavern Club launch

Gamers celebrate Rock Band release in Fab Four's home city

Having rocked the night away in Liverpool's famous Cavern Club, where The Beatles began their career, fans at GAME's UK launch event yesterday evening also walked away with a voucher to pick up The Beatles: Rock Band today for GBP 9.99, as the game and the remastered music went on sale around the world.

With the opportunity to play the game on the same stage the Fab Four made their own in the early sixties, gamers secured tickets by pre-ordering EA and MTV's title at one of the city's GAME or Gamestation stores. But it was only during the event itself that the retailer surprised punters with details of the one-time GBP 9.99 offer.

"Everyone here tonight who's pre-ordered will get it tomorrow for GBP 9.99," Neil Ashurst, GAME's head of UK PR, told GamesIndustry.biz, explaining that the figure was designed to commemorate the September 9 2009 release date.

"The customers are so excited, Liverpool's really behind the game, so the Cavern Club is the only place we thought we had to do this and fortunately we were able to take the place for the night."

As well as a chance to play the game on stage, attendees were also treated to an energetic performance of early Beatles hits by local tribute act, The Beatles Experience. And this was followed by a rowdy 'battle of the bands' clash between rival local GAME and Gamestation stores, with the latter emerging victorious.

"The better team won," conceded GAME store manager Jason Stronstad. "We came to have a laugh, they came to have a laugh. Our best players weren't good enough."

"We've been playing the game and it's absolutely brilliant," said Christian Bell, a customer service manager from Liverpool, explaining that "everyone's happy" after receiving the discount voucher. "You actually feel like you're with The Beatles singing," added gym instructor Paula Nixon.

The expectation that a Beatles game could appeal to an audience far beyond that of previous music games also appeared to be borne out on the night. "I'm a gamer myself but I've never been near Guitar Hero. I'm more into Arkham Asylum, games like that," revealed Cav, who described himself as a "bass player".

His friend, a barman and stand-up comedian who called himself "Fat Mick", agreed: "I'm an absolute Guitar Hero virgin." They both commended the quality of the in-game animations, Mick adding: "If someone said to a child 'draw Ringo', that'd be what it would look like. It's boss. It's like having another Beatles album, because it's so true." So were they planning to buy the game the following morning? "We're down there like a shot."

Although the majority of attendees were from the local area, some had come from much further afield to be in the home of The Beatles for the launch.

"This is where it all happened," said Hans Roosenbrand, who had travelled with a friend from Holland. "I have been coming here every year for 34 years. The first thing to do tomorrow is go to the record shop." And though not a gamer, he was impressed by what he had seen of Rock Band: "It's a good opportunity for young kids to get to know The Beatles."

"It's certainly taking it to another level in music games," claimed GAME's Ashurst. "What the sales figures will be, we'll see when it comes out tomorrow, but in general the level of anticipation is huge."

Though all the media hype has been focused on The Beatles, Activision also releases the latest instalment of its billion-dollar Guitar Hero franchise, Guitar Hero 5, this Friday. "The interest level on all the music stuff is going through the roof," Ashurst added. "We're getting old, young, all kinds of people."

As the night wore on and drinks flowed, more and more people took up the chance to live out their Beatles fantasies on stage. Tens of thousands of words have been written in recent weeks about The Beatles' first videogame, but perhaps nothing summed it up better than the words of 12 year-old Paul McCartney fan Kristian Sudbury, dressed sharply in suit and tie, who observed: "I like the Beatles, I like Rock Band: it's The Beatles Rock Band."

And would he be inviting friends around to play the game with him tomorrow? "No, I'll just kick them out!"

The Beatles: Rock Band released today on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii.

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Johnny Minkley

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Johnny Minkley is a veteran games writer and broadcaster, former editor of Eurogamer TV, VP of gaming charity SpecialEffect, and hopeless social media addict.

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