11/17/06 — Shoppers wait in line for chance at Playstation 3

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Shoppers wait in line for chance at Playstation 3

By Staff and Wire
Published in News on November 17, 2006 1:45 PM

While video game lovers across the country camped out in tents and lawnchairs for days to be one of the first Americans to purchase the new Playstation 3, local merchants in Goldsboro said the event was less dramatic.

Unlike employees at Best Buys, Wal-Marts and other stores across the state and country, those at Gamestop on Spence Avenue didn't see people sleeping outside their doors late last night -- they didn't even open at midnight.

Instead, those customers who wanted first crack at the system preordered them a long time ago.

"We've got six in but they were all preorders," one said. "We hope to get rid of all of them today."

The scene in other parts of the country, though, was much more hectic.

Days of waiting paid off for Sergio Rodriguez, one of the relatively few able to buy Sony's PlayStation 3 when the coveted console went on sale early Friday.

He was among the die-hard gamers and entrepreneurs across the country who braved foul weather and heckling by passers-by all week for the chance to shell out $500 or more for the sleek PS3, plus about $60 per game.

With shortages resulting from production problems, many had camped out for days without knowing if they'd be going home empty-handed. At some stores, the crowds got rowdy and stampeded for the shelves, injuring a man in Wisconsin and forcing authorities to shut down a Wal-Mart store in California.

In Connecticut, two armed thugs who got wise to the PS3's high price and tried to rob a line of people waiting outside a Putnam Wal-Mart store at 3 a.m. One person who refused to give up the money was shot, state police said. In Lexington, Ky., four people waiting outside a Best Buy were hit by BB pellets, though none was seriously injured, according to WKYT, whose own reporter was hit as she interviewed buyers.

Rodriguez had been waiting outside the New York Circuit City store since Sunday for the a midnight launch event, and he was the first to walk away with the PS3 as people still standing in line outside the store cheered.

"This is the best game ever. It's so worth the wait," the 25-year-old graphics designer said. "Some people may call me crazy, but I really love to play."

With Sony promising only 400,000 systems for the nationwide launch, the chance of disappointment was high. While retailers tried to keep expectations low, lines snaked around the block at many stores -- even those that weren't going to begin sales until later Friday.

Nathaniel Lord, who camped out for three nights at a Best Buy in West Hollywood, Calif., spent more than $700 on a console and a game.

"I thought about going home to shower first because I haven't showered in three days, but I think I'm just going to get another energy drink, log on and get started," said Lord, a recent graduate of California Institute of the Arts.

Some customers were buying PS3 machines for themselves or as gifts, but many were hoping to resell them at a profit. Units were fetching several thousand dollars early Friday at the eBay Inc. auction site.

Potential customers braved freezing temperatures in Fargo, N.D., and heavy rain and winds in Baltimore and other East Coast locales.

Even a volunteer for former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina asked for help in getting a PS3 -- from Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which the potential 2008 presidential candidate frequently criticizes.

Edwards said the volunteer "feels terrible" about seeking the console from Wal-Mart a day after his boss criticized the giant retailer, saying it doesn't treat its employees fairly. Wal-Mart accused Edwards, the Democrats' 2004 vice presidential candidate, of not wanting to wait his turn.

Short supplies and strong demand were feared to be a formula for trouble as the PS3 hit store shelves, a half-year late because of problems completing work on the console's built-in, next-generation DVD player.

Sony promised the 400,000 machines in the United States for Friday's launch and about 1 million by year's end. Worldwide, it was expecting 2 million this year, half its original projections.

Jack Tretton, executive vice president at Sony Computer Entertainment America, said retailers will be receiving new PlayStations daily -- expedited by plane rather than ships.

"At some point we want to get to some degree of normalcy, but that remains to be seen," Tretton told The Associated Press, adding that seeing all the people camped out and lined up for the console "kind of makes all the effort worth it."

Enthusiasm for the PlayStation 3 wasn't dampened by its high price tag -- $500 for the basic model with a 20-gigabyte hard drive and $600 for the 60-gigabyte version, which also has built-in wireless.

By contrast, Nintendo Co.'s Wii, which goes on sale Sunday in the U.S., retails for $250. Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360, which had a year's head start over rivals, sells for $300 to $400.

Sony crammed the PlayStation 3 with the very latest in cutting-edge technology, and it dominated the previous generation of consoles with 70 percent of the global market.