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Halo 3 Tournament


On New Year’s Eve while most of Salt Lake was either out at First Night or watching the ball drop at home, a large group of gamers gathered at the Megaplex in the Gateway for the 5th Halo 3 Tournament, headed by Landing Zone.

--- Teams competed in a 4-4 slayer double elimination bracket where the winning team would receive four Xbox 360’s. In the midst of the all the loading screens and massive fighting, I took some pictures and got a chance to sit down with tournament head Allen Stock, and get his thoughts on the event.

Allen Stock


Gavin: So how did the idea come about to do this?

Allen: Been a gamer my whole life. Used to do game nights with my friends. Would go to game stores around town and play the kind of games with the jacked up key cards. I thought to myself this place needs a legit game center. And it’s been prime for a number of years for something big like this to come along.

Yeah, and I must say this looks to me like one of the biggest crowds I’ve seen for any kind of tournament, not just video games, but things like Magic The Gathering or Pokemon. It’s probably this biggest outturn I’ve personally seen for an event like this in five to six years.

Allen: Just wait until midnight man. As soon as that ball drops we’ll have spectators coming in. We’ve had people call in and ask if there are spectators spots and how much, and we tell them “just five bucks.” And they call me a moron for not charging more, but it’s like, I don’t need to charge more than that. I mean, it’s like, I’m a gamer. Why should I charge $40 to see someone play when I wouldn’t pay $40 to see someone play?

Kind of like baseball, only charge a small amount to see a game.

Allen: Exactly. These guys are playing in an open place for a large audience; any money that comes off it is a profit. Why charge a massive amount to see a video game? The largest amount we charge is $50, and that’s to play. And you’re playing for a 360, so I think that’s the real deal.

You started doing these back in November, this is your fifth one. What did the Megaplex management think of the original idea?

Allen: I was looking for a place I could rent out for a gaming center. We got to talking and I asked them how much it would cost to rent out two theaters to hold the tournament. And they said “well why just two, why not give you the whole theater?” And I said… “Okay, that’s great!” And then we worked out a partnership, started working out the times and the format. But the idea almost didn’t happen. We got a call the day of; they said they were going with a different company. They were basically taking my idea to someone else. But I fought a little on it and made an agreement to split the door fee. I show up, and I looked at how they had it set up, and it was all wrong and they tried to tie it all in the wrong way. So I spent an entire hour resetting the system up with all the consoles. Including cleaning out the systems so they could run Xbox Live.

Which as an Xbox owner, I know that’s not a fun job one just one.

Allen: No kidding. You have to have at least one gigabyte free. And all these had tons of info on them to where they had little memory, so I had to do a complete wipe of them before this could work out. And these were owned by other people by another company, who were completely unprepared for this.

So this is the third you’ve done?

Allen: Fifth, actually.

That’s not bad. Five in under two months.

Allen: Exactly.

Which is impressive because most game stores can’t event do this once a month.

Allen: We took Christmas off, but we’ve tried to keep it pretty regular after the first one.

So after the first one, what did the Megaplex management think of the whole idea?

Allen: They were like “Yeah, let’s do this!” We pulled out a schedule and they were just great about it. Next one we brought in 10 Xbox’s and 10 Halo games with wireless controllers. Set them all up and were ready to go. First one was round-robin, no tournament. People were just having fun with it, and we thought why not play for prizes? Next one we sat down and figured out a tournament Me and my dad figured out how much time it would take if we did 64 teams and 32 teams, seeing how much of a problem it might be. We scaled it down, made it double elimination.

Which is a good way to go for one of these.

Allen: Exactly. Because the worst team at the start could still go on to win it. And we wanted to do 64 teams and figured out it would take about 12 hours if everything went right. Didn’t think we could check out the theater for an entire day at that point, so we went to 32 and timed it out to about 6 hours. But then we started it and Murphy’s Law kicks in. And it’s like, the minute we have one problem fixed, another one pops up. First big one we did took nine hours and we lost two Xbox’s.

They went Triple Red?

Allen: Oh, they went Quad Red.


Allen: Yeah. Three I can fix. Four is just dead. But we had a great sponsorship with Best Buy. We took them in, they replaced them right then and there. So we were ready to go and had our backups there. And also at the first one we played the trailer for the Halo movie, which was very awesome for us to do showing it in a theater, having a good relationship with Bungie. Couldn’t pull it off the second time, had some issues with the Xbox. I was just like “Sorry, it worked last time!” And then the next one we gave away Mini-DVD players, which was just awesome. And then this one we’re giving away systems, but this time it’s become a headache and a half setting up everything and making it work right.

What’s been the response from the players? Like, are they generally excited every time or have you just gotten the same groups over and over again?

Allen: Oh my gosh. The response is overwhelming. First time we set up, we sold out. Second time, third time, last time… sold out to the point where we’re having to turn some people away we’re so overbooked.

I saw a little of how to set the systems up, and I know you want to keep how you set this whole thing up under lock and key. Without going into the details, was it difficult to set this up on a technical level?

Allen: Time consuming. Difficult at times. And Murphy’s Law always seems to apply. Wasn’t that hard to set up, but it was more difficult to get working. As you saw earlier, getting the network to find the other system when they’re only one theater apart. Sometimes it just comes down to the simplest things being fixed, like when you used to go play Goldeneye on the N64 with your buddies. The controller is busted, but you don’t want to go buy a new one, you gotta do what you can with the broken one to fix it. So now we double check the system, plus we have backup systems just in case. And if more than two go down, we’ll just shut most everything down and go one match at a time on the systems we have left that work. If 10 Xbox’s go down, I have employee problems, you know? But overall it’s just time consuming.

What do you think of the response you’ve gotten so far?

Allen: Response is amazing. We’ve got all the teams signed up, good number of spectators tonight. Had 30 more people wanting to play including single players who were looking to be thrown into play with 3 other lone players. Things are good, everybody is happy, just sucks when we have to start turning people away who want to play. Which I wish I could prevent, I don’t enjoy getting called nasty names over the phone because there’s no more room. But I hope to get that fixed in the near future. Other than that, huge response. I guess Utah in general has had a craving for these kind of tournaments. Like, ones where you’re not just playing to be called the winner, but actual competition with the best out there for a real prize. High schools are really going for it, radio stations are having a blast with it, Comcast was willing to give away prizes for this. So overall, good response.

Nice. I know you’re planning on more tournaments in the future. Are you planning on anything outside of Halo?

Allen: Yeah, we’re actually looking to do a Guitar Hero 3 tournament coming up here pretty soon. Looking to have 64 players, they’ll play three different sets and we’ll go from there. The prize we’re looking at is a $300-$400 guitar, for no more than a $45 entrance fee.

Very cool.

Allen: Also we wanted to do a Call Of Duty one. That one’s not to far away.

Classic version or the new one?

Allen: Little bit of both. We want to do one for both #3 and #4. It’s two different worlds. There’s the old-school warfare and your modern warfare, and there’s such a huge fanbase for both. And I’d like to aim for a full season for both of these. We’d also like to get in some sports games and cover that genre, so you have your sports people and your shooters and get them all in the act. The reason we did Halo 3 for this one was because it barely dropped when we first started this, knew a lot of people would be playing it and would want to play the local competition. But there are definitely plans to do more of these with other games.

One last question. Any plans to expand? I know we talked about it earlier briefly, expanding it to make it more of a pro-gamer’s destination. You talked about how these games count on a minor level for the MLG (Major League Gaming), but they haven’t really done anything Utah wise. They usually go for Vegas or New York and other major cities on the tour. Is there any chance of making this a major stop for them, or doing your own multi-day event for the locals?

Allen: Yeah, actually. Shortly, after we get the store front open, we’re going to start full blown MLG games. They’ll be both in the store and in the theater. As it looks now we’ll hopefully by 2009, getting started on doing this for a full week. But we’re currently in talks about doing this as a weekend type event.


Allen: So yeah, look for that down the line.