The release of Halo 2 was preceded with numerous promotions, product tie-ins, and movie trailer-like commercials. There was a Halo 2 Celebrity Pre-Release Party at E3 2004, in which a private home was transformed to replicate the world of Halo, complete with camouflaged Marines and roaming Cortanas.
In addition to more traditional forms of promotion, Halo 2 was also part of an elaborate Alternate Reality Game project titled "I Love Bees," which cost an estimated one million dollars. This "game" centered around a hacked website, supposedly a site about beekeeping, where an AI from the future was residing. The project garnered significant attention from sites including Slashdot and Wired News; Wired noted that the game was drawing attention away from the 2004 Presidential Election. The game won an award for creativity at the 5th annual Game Developers Choice Awards and was nominated for a Webby award. On the morning of October 14, 2004, a leak of the French version of the game was posted on the Internet, and circulated widely.
Halo 2 was sold in both a standard and "Limited Collector's Edition". The Collector's Edition features the regular edition and includes several promotional offers, a special cover and a special DVD of the making of Halo 2. The instructional booklet is also written from the Covenant point of view rather than from the UNSC point of view used in the regular edition. Also enclosed is the "Conversations from the Universe" booklet that contains additional information from both the human and the Covenant side of the Halo storyline; transcripts are available online. The game is enclosed in an aluminum case with the Halo 2 logo.
The first official release of Halo 2 was in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States on November 9, 2004. Anticipation for the game was high; three weeks before this release, a record 1.5 million copies had already been pre-ordered. Massive lines formed at midnight releases of the game; the event garnered significant media attention. This was followed by releases on November 10, 2004 in France and other European countries, and November 11 in the UK. The game sold 2.4 million copies and earned up to US$125 million in its first 24 hours on store shelves, thus out-grossing the film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest as the highest grossing release in entertainment history. The game sold 260,000 units in the United Kingdom in its first week, making it the third fastest-selling title in that territory. On June 20, 2006, Xbox.com reported that more than a half-billion games of Halo 2 have been played on Xbox Live since its debut. Halo 2 is the best-selling first-generation Xbox game with 8.46 million copies sold by November 2008. As of September 25, 2007, Halo 2 was the fifth best-selling video game in the United States with 6.3 million copies sold, according to the NPD Group. From the day of its initial release and up until mid-November 2006, Halo 2 was the most popular video game on Xbox Live, even after the release of the Xbox 360; its position was eventually surpassed in 2006 by the 360-exclusive Gears of War. Halo and Halo 2 are still some of the most played games for the Xbox console.
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—Walt Whitman (18191892)
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And the sea grows red with the blood of the dead and reaches for his spoil
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