SAN FRANCISCO--"THREE! TWO! ONE! WOOOOO-HOOOOOO!" That was the sound the crowd outside the Metreon made as the clock struck midnight, ringing in the first seconds of November 17, 2006. After waiting up to 48 hours nonstop on the pavement--be it in lawn chairs, improvised street furniture, or a humble pair of shoes--the 700-strong crowd let out an upbeat primal scream. Despite the fact many were in line just to resell the console, there was an undeniable exuberance in the air ushering in the first minutes of the PlayStation 3 era.
Few had as much enthusiasm as Chris Tonibio, 21, who had the distinction--some would say dubious distinction--of being the first person in line outside the Metreon. "My friends and I just came by on Wednesday morning just to check it out," the dazed gamer told a throng of reporters. "When we saw there was no one in line, we called up some people and said, 'Hey, let's all get PS3s,' and they all came down."
Tonibio's party began their campout at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning. At 11:59 p.m. Thursday night, he and his four friends were ushered into the lobby of the Metreon, the shopping and entertainment complex formerly owned by Sony. Tonibio then had to run a gauntlet of photographers from the game and mainstream press, most of which were intent on destroying his retinas with amassed batteries of flashbulbs.
Slightly blinded and very disoriented, Tonibio shuffled past the press into the PlayStation store and was presented with one of the first PS3 units on the West Coast by Sony Computer Entertainment executive vice president Jack Tretton. After some brief words and a hearty, prolonged handshake, the ever-smiling executive sent the dazed gamer on his way--which then put him inside a circle of aggressive and often uninformed television reporters.
When asked what he would do after he took the console home, the weary Tonibio said one word: "Sleep." He also readily admitted that he had not yet purchased any games, though the first title he planned to pick up was the highly rated Resistance: Fall of Man. When one particularly ill-informed reporter facetiously asked him how he felt "about making history," Tonibio stared blankly before simply saying, "What? Uh, I dunno. I'm really tired."
Then, as soon as it began, Tonibio's 15 minutes of fame appeared to be up. As he headed for the exit, the rest of the line began to file in. With some 700 consoles to hand out in the next several hours, the PlayStation store officials wanted to keep things moving. Many members of the press quickly obliged, themselves eager to join Olympic gold medalist and pro snow- and skateboarder Shaun White at the Sony post-PS3 launch after-party at Jillian's, a cocktail lounge in the Metreon. As for the rest of the people in line, most quickly departed once they had completed their purchase--either to go play their PS3, post it on eBay, or simply get some shut-eye.