Celebrity gamers were out in force last night as Microsoft marked the launch of Bungie's final Halo title – and the platform holder is confident its star performer will outsell rivals in the looming first-person shooter face-off.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz after last night's London event – which saw an all-star team including England captain Rio Ferdinand take on Halo experts – UK Xbox director Stephen McGill said: "More than 34 million people have bought [a Halo game] and I think those people are going to want to play Halo: Reach, so yeah, I think we're going to do incredibly well."
Asked if he expected the game to outsell Activision's upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops on Xbox, he said: "I think it's going to be a really good fight and yes I do. We have huge expectations".
With the review embargo set to lift this weekend, McGill said he was "expecting very good, very strong, very high, glowing reviews," and admitted he had "seen a few" magazine scores already and was "very happy".
The launch of Reach also marks the end of developer Bungie's work on the massive franchise it created a decade ago. Despite this, McGill insisted Halo was "in very good hands" and that Microsoft has "great plans" for the franchise in the future.
The stage battle, entertainingly hosted by Radio 1 DJ Reggie Yates, a late booking for the event, was a predictably one-sided affair with McGill acknowledging that the celebrity team – led by competition winner, 17 year-old Lewis Chapman – was "completely trounced".
During the matches, Yates repeatedly heckled the celebrities, branding Rio Ferdinand "officially rubbish at Halo". The losing team included Gadget Show presenter Jason Bradbury, rugby player Ben Cohen, recording artist Mr Hudson and TV presenter Jameela Jamil.
One of the gamers on the winning team, Robert Daniel Brown, told GamesIndustry.biz it had been "the greatest night of my life" and said the victory was down to "good teamwork and communication. We totally thrashed the opposition."
Offering advice to multiplayer gamers ahead of next week's launch, he said: "Use the Battle Rifle. It's the only gun that all of the professionals use."
Reflecting on the huge success of the franchise, McGill said: "Halo was the standout title when we launched Xbox ten years ago. It was the title that made FPS on consoles an accessible, fun, life-changing experience."
And he insisted that there was "not a stone left unturned" by Bungie in creating its series swansong.
Halo: Reach launches on September 14.