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Originally published May 17, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified May 17, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Beta "Halo" screw-up plays havoc with gamers

That collective wail emanating across the Web on Wednesday was the sound of video gamers denied. Microsoft had promised to debut a beta...

Seattle Times technology reporter

That collective wail emanating across the Web on Wednesday was the sound of video gamers denied.

Microsoft had promised to debut a beta, or test, version Wednesday of multiplayer elements of the highly anticipated "Halo 3" for Xbox 360 users to try out.

The game would be open to players who had bought specially marked versions of another Xbox 360 game, "Crackdown."

But when players tried to access the beta, they were told to try later.

That continued throughout the day, causing fits of confusion and, yes, even panic for some die-hard fans of Microsoft's popular "Halo" games.

One person posted a video on YouTube showing his attempts to download the game. The system told him to check back later.

"I'm just so sad right now," he said on the video.

Another Web site showed a live video feed of someone trying to download the game every five seconds.

Some fans took out their frustration at the Web site of Bungie, the Microsoft studio developing "Halo 3."

The site got thousands of comments, including "Throw us a friggin' bone" and "Why must you torment me so?"

One person calculated that since the beta was set to last only three weeks, the delay had robbed him of 2 percent of his entire playing time.

"I invited all my friends over to check it out, and now they all just left disappointed and angry with me," wrote another.

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By Wednesday afternoon, Microsoft wasn't saying what the problem was, only what it was not: There was no issue with the "Crackdown" discs or with the "Halo 3" beta. A fix would be in place in a matter of hours, Microsoft said.

"We know we have a lot of fans that have been waiting for the beta for months, and even took time off of work to start early today," the company said in a statement.

"We really appreciate their enthusiasm, and we hope the small delay won't damper everyone's enjoyment of the game."

By Wednesday evening, the download was available at last.

The final version of "Halo 3" is due Sept. 25.

Kim Peterson: 206-464-2360 or kpeterson@seattletimes.com

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