The Reaper invasion of Earth has begun and they’ve started with New Jersey. Last week, Electronic Arts launched several copies of their upcoming science fiction game Mass Effect 3 into space so that lucky fans in San Francisco and New York could scavenge free copies when the space capsules landed. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned and the San Francisco games got stuck in the branches of a Redwood tree while the copies intended for New York landed in New Jersey.
Mass Effect 3 centers around a powerful race of sentient machines called “Reapers” who invade Earth. Because it has a science fiction setting, EA and the game’s developer Bioware thought it would be apropos to stage a promotional event that involved attaching copies of the game to high-altitude weather balloons which would take them to the limits of Earth’s atmosphere, thereby allegedly making Bioware’s space opera the first consol game in space.
For the record, this is not the first time a video game has been in outer space; in 1993 a Russian cosmonaut named Aleksandr A. Serebrov brought a Gameboy and a copy of Tetris with him on a trip to the space station Mir. While the advance copies of Mass Effect 3 might fetch a good price on eBay, Serebrov’s Gameboy was later auctioned off for over a thousand dollars.
The balloons are equipped with cameras and GPS tracking devices, and are designed to gently return to Earth with their precious cargo intact. Fans can log on to a special website to track the balloons, then race to the landing area. Because it doesn’t officially release until March 6th, this makes these enthusiastic fans the first people in the world to play the game.
In order to successfully launch the Mass Effect 3 Space Edition into orbit, BioWare worked with Dr. Ben Longmier of Project Aether, a program at the University of Houston that promotes space exploration for high school and college students.
According Mass Effect’s Facebook page, the San Francisco launches were deemed “irretrievable” despite two days of recovery attempts including the use of a slingshot. Sadly, no one with biotic implants was on hand to assist with the retrieval efforts, and the games are now the property of woodland critters.
The New York launch ended relatively successfully with the capsule touching down in the neighboring state of New Jersey. The games were distributed to lucky fans on scene before the New Jersey police showed up to disperse the crowd. A third balloon landed in Las Vegas without incident.
The New York launch was the final event in the promotion for North America, but European fans still have the chance to score copies of the game this week, with launches planned for London on the 27th, and Berlin on the 29th.
You can track the European balloons and get updates on the North American events through the Mass Effect Space Edition website. Mass Effect 3 comes out for PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on Tuesday March 6th. Check back with Explosion.com for more preview coverage and our review.