NEW YORK--It wasn't until about 6 p.m. that the first raindrops of the day began to fall in New York City. The sprinkle was but a sign of things to come from the thunderstorms overhead, as by 8 p.m., a torrential downpour blanketed the streets of The Big Apple.
The weather was a fitting metaphor for the launch of the PlayStation 3 at the SonyStyle Store in midtown Manhattan, as what started with a few eager gamers early in the week turned into massive crowds by Thursday night.
As if by plan, the skies parted almost exactly when the first prospective PS3 owners entered the SonyStyle Store. Gamers' tempers that had turned sour earlier in the day were now sunny, as those who got in all knew they were guaranteed the chance to purchase one of the highly sought-after systems.
Though Sony's obvious intent was to "get this party started," the crowd was much more interested in getting to a cash register and taking home a PS3 than snacking on complimentary miniature hot dogs. Nevertheless, the emcee hyped up the console, saying, "Forget everything you know about gaming," as the PS3 was going to redefine it.
Various other celebrities entertained the crowd, including Karima Adebibe (better known as the new Lara Croft), rapper Ludacris, rapper-turned DJ D-Nice, and Charlie Murphy, who looked forward to future consoles "because you'll be able to have sex with them."
The suits also made a prominent appearance, with Sony Computer Entertainment America president Kaz Hirai joined onstage by Sony Corp. CEO Howard Stringer, who made a rare appearance at a Sony gaming event. Stringer followed Murphy with a joke of his own--which promptly bombed. Hirai was his normal jubilant self, at one point leading a "PS3! PS3!" chant.
Not everyone was in the mood for laughing as an almost week-long ordeal was coming to an end for most of them. While some played the demo stations scattered throughout the grounds, most were content to nibble on the complimentary snacks or even take naps.
Sony gave its most hardcore fans a treat. The first three gamers in line were awarded with a free PlayStation 3 and a few games. Sony also gave away a console to one lucky gamer who found a "golden ticket" in his gift bag.
As midnight approached, the first person in line, New York native Angel Paredes, was escorted into the SonyStyle Store where he was handed the first North American PS3 by Hirai and Stringer. The console's box also included a personal autographed message from Hirai. Paredes, his voice hoarse from interviews and arms tired from repeatedly hoisting the console, was a good sport, standing still for the multitude of photographers and offering a few words for anyone who asked.
Once the media buzz died down, the rest of the attendees were ushered in to get what they had been waiting for all week. Though the consoles' next destinations were unknown--many are expected to be posted on eBay for a quick profit--the next destinations of the new PS3 owners was clear--go home and get some rest.
While Sony's 400 guests wore exhausted smiles, those who just missed the cutoff had another task ahead of them. According to the hundreds of gamers who remain lined up outside the building, Sony was planning to sell another batch of PS3s at 7 a.m. Friday.
Some in the new line claimed that they should have been in the event tonight, but line cutters pushed them back. One gamer told GameSpot, "Tonight I was number 402. Yesterday I was number 277."
Still, their spirits were high. After all they'd just been through, what's another seven hours?