Release Of Sony Playstation 3 Has Gamers Camping Out

Jake Spring

By Jake SpringThe Daily Northwestern

For the 35 people camped in tents outside the Best Buy at 2301 Howard St., freezing temperatures, a 48-hour wait and $600 were a small price to pay for a shot at video game bliss.

Campers began assembling outside the store at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday in anticipation of the release of Sony’s Playstation 3 video game system.

The shoppers hoped to get their hands on one of at least 26 PS3s that would go on sale at 8 a.m. Friday, said Richard Leconte, a 28-year-old in Loss Prevention at Best Buy.

“On top of ruining our sleep schedules, we’re going to be eating the worst food,” said Raj Darji, a 27-year-old electrical engineer. “But it’s all going to be worth it.”

Darji was the first to arrive on Wednesday and was camping with three friends, all expecting to buy a PS3.

The group of four sat around a propane heater, explaining how they were sustaining themselves on food brought by their mothers and from the nearby McDonald’s and Jewel-Osco. Darji enjoyed the nostalgic feeling of waiting for the release, he said.

“We used to game a lot in high school,” he said. “This brings us back to our youthful years where things didn’t matter.”

The release was so highly anticipated that many people had already stocked up on games, controllers and other accessories. Arnell Newman, the 30th person in line, already had bought his copy of Madden NFL 07, he said.

“When we got here, we were quite surprised (that) there have been guys here since yesterday, ” he said.

Newman, a 32-year-old recording engineer, was confident he would get a PS3 despite his precarious position near the back of the line.

Store employees said they could only guarantee 26 units, but the general manager had told those waiting that there would be at least 30, he said.

They would know for sure only when the shipment arrived the next morning, said Alex Jasso, a 25-year-old Best Buy customer assistant.

Although some felt a competitive tension building over who would get a PS3, six strangers had met at the back of the line and decided to pool their resources.

“(We were) strangers to one another when we got here,” said Newman. “One guy purchased the tent. I bought the heater.”

The campers had at least one brush with the law during their overnight stay. After the police heard that some of the shoppers were using illegal drugs, they decided to pay an early morning visit to the store, Darji said.

“They woke us up at 4 a.m.,” he said. “They made us all come out of our tents and peeked in.”

Some saw the high demand for so few systems as an opportunity to make money. Sony intended to have at least 1.4 million systems released in North America by the end of the year, but most likely only 700,000 will be available, Jasso said.

Tony Royals of Chicago was planning to sell his system for at least $1,500, he said.

“It’ll be on eBay by 3 o’clock on Friday, ” said the 22-year-old CEO of a photo advertising studio.

Darji also felt the pull to sell. The $600 price tag on the 60 gigabyte version seemed cheap compared to those being auctioned for as much as $3,500 online, he said. He plans to watch prices online before deciding to use it.

Demand is high for the PS3, but the Sunday release of Nintendo’s Wii game system is expected to be much larger, Jasso said. Four million units of the Wii were scheduled to be available in the next three weeks.

“As opposed to 26 PS3s, we’ll probably have three or four times as many,” he said. “(I expect) more people because they can get them. If someone wants a PS3 and they see the line outside, they’re probably not going to get them.”

Reach Jake Spring at [email protected]