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Click to enlarge images courtesy of GameSpot

That pavement isn't as soft as it looks

Thumbs up!

It sure beats sleeping outside

A sea of homogeny waiting for PS3

No PS3 if you weren't behind this sign

Daybreak raffle hopefuls get caught in the rain

I'd be pretty happy too if I won a raffle
Line ups in the thousands, homeless PS3 buyers, customer reactions and female distaste

The PlayStation 3 will easily be one of this year's most sought after items. With American gamers putting their lives on hold for almost two weeks to wait in line until the November 17 launch, anticipation is at an all-time high. For Japanese gamers, however, the wait is over.

Sony's new console launched in Japan today, and was met with extensive lineups worthy of a human/ant farm colony simulation. Hundreds, if not thousands, of gamers queued outside Yodobashi and Bic Camera stores (big box retailers equivalent to our Best Buy or Frys) the night before the release hoping to purchase a console. Japanese retailers typically do not offer midnight releases, those in line for the console would have to wait until the morning.

For a peek at what the scene looked like during queuing hours, watch these videoclips from Yodabashi Umeda in Osaka.

Even with only 80,000 consoles expected for launch, gamers still lined up even if their chances of getting a PS3 were slim. According to GameSpot, the Yodabashi Camera store in Akihabara cleared the street clutter by moving over 1,500 waiting customers into an underground parking garage at a still-early 1:30 a.m.

Mind you, the Yodabashi location in Akihabara is like Toys 'R' Us in Times Square - it's a premiere location - with a relatively amazing 1,980 consoles for the store. And thus, everyone in the Yodabashi parking garage at that time would be able to purchase a console in the morning. Supplies were much thinner at other locations, with smaller gaming shops only receiving between 10-20 units. Even other Yodabashi Camera stores in majors centers such as Shinjuku received at most half of Akihabara's allocation. Store managers had to bring in an additional 200 employees and hire guards to handle the buyers.

"Even if we had 4,000 we'd still sell out today," Yodabashi Akihabara store manager Shinichi Adachi said. "I'd like to know when we'll get another delivery from Sony, but they're not saying."

The 20GB PS3 sold for 49,980 yen (approx. $424) and the 60GB PS3, which carried no official MSRP, commonly sold for 62,700 yen (approx. $533).

Interestingly enough, a black market developed for PlayStation 3. Console demand has been so strong that Japanese consumers were paying nearly three times retail pricing for pre-order slips, similar to the situation here in North America. What's different (or perhaps untapped) is that homeless men were paid to join the line ups in an effort for scheming individuals to circumvent the "limit one per customer" rule.

Needless to say, all of Japan was completely sold out of PlayStation 3 by the end of the morning. Gamers of all ages and walks of life, albeit predominantly male, had a few things to say about the experience.

"When Sony announced the Playstation 3 I really wanted one, but thought I should wait because of the high price," 25 year-old Akihiro Okawa, who was first in line at Yodabashi Akihabara, said. "When they cut the price, I decided to go ahead." 

"I've been waiting for this day to come for so long. I'll play it all through the weekend. No time for meals," said Tomoaki Nakamura, 41, who already owns all the Sony systems and an Xbox 360.

"This is like a festival," said Takahiro Watabe, 23, as he looked at the line of buyers as long as an entire city block. "I don’t think the new PlayStation is too expensive. If you consider it has a Blu-Ray drive, you can use it as a DVD player as well as a game machine."

One female shopper, however, was less enthusiastic about the console's launch. Natsuki Inoue, 27, felt that PlayStation 3 is designed to appeal to younger males.

"This is a toy for men," she said, as a screen flashed an image of a woman in an iron bikini cleaving a dragon’s head. "It’s hard to imagine women or children wanting this. It’s just too much."

Following the late night line up insanity, those who wished to purchase a PlayStation 3, but didn't manage to secure a guarantee slip, would have to leave it up to lady luck. Several stores reserved a portion of its units for a lottery system, which still involved line ups numbering in the hundreds, leaving a small glimmer of hope for the less hardcore crowd, reports GameSpot.

In a very Gatesy move, PlayStation father and president/CEO of SCEI Ken Kutaragi made an appearance at Bic Camera outlet in Tokyo's Yurakucho district to hand a console to the first customer in line, who was reportedly from China.

"I am so happy so many people are waiting," Kutaragi said to the crowd. "Thank you for waiting from late last night. Please enjoy next-generation entertainment."





"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007
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