UNIVERSAL CITY, California--Even on a typical weekend night, the narrow walkways that make up Universal Studios' Citywalk center are a buzzing mass of bustling activity and neon signage. Tonight, however, is anything but typical, as Nintendo has chosen EB World here, located in the shopping district of the popular Southern California theme park, to host the official West Coast launch event for the Nintendo Wii.
Throughout the day, an ever-growing line of folks has been snaking its way through the Citywalk center in anticipation of the Wii's launch at midnight tonight.
The line, which began forming early on Friday morning, has grown to include several hundred people, all of whom are waiting to grab one of Nintendo's anticipated consoles.
It's an orderly scene, with portable iron fencing separating the hundreds of Wii folk from the other Citywalk visitors. At last check, the line snaked in front of several restaurants and shops, continuing up the staircase of a nearby parking garage, terminated on a crosswalk overlooking the scene below. Though the crowd is big, few people in the line seem to be worried about whether or not they will receive a console; rumor has it that the EB store has a "four digit number" supply of Wii units on hand to sell.
The first future Wii owner is one Jonathan Mann, 26, an obviously diehard Nintendo fan who came to the launch event dressed in little more than a Mario hat and a pair of bright red overalls.
Mann and his friends, who initially arrived on Thursday only to be turned away until the official line began yesterday morning, came prepared not just with chairs and blankets, but also a Nintendo Entertainment System, a Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and a bunch of games for both systems including Contra, The Legend of Zelda, and practically every Mario game Mann could get his hands on.
"Part of the reason I wanted to be first in line was to sort of bring [these old games] out," said Mann, who lives in Hollywood. "For the first fifty or sixty people in line, as they were coming, I was going around and inviting everyone to come up [and play]. I wanted to create a real sense of community. I wanted to create a sense of joy around the gaming systems that got us started in the first place. The opposite of a PS3 line, I guess, is what I was going for."
Though the East Coast Wii launch at the Times Square Toys "R" Us is full of folks bundled up against the chilly New York conditions, the weather here just outside of downtown Los Angeles is comfortable. Temperatures reached the mid-80s at the height of the day and are expected to dip down to the low 50s this evening. The nice weather and the family-friendly nature of the Universal Studios theme park seems to have carried over to the Wii hopefuls as well, as it isn't unusual to see parents camped out with their younger children.
Along with live entertainment and a stage show of sorts featuring live interviews with Nintendo executives, the company has set up a number of playable Nintendo Wii stations featuring a host of games from the launch lineup, including The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Call of Duty 3, Excite Truck, and the bundled Wii Sports, along with Nintendo reps on hand to help walk people through the games.
Lest the Nintendo DS be forgotten, a handful of DS stations were also present, running games like Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam and Yoshi's Island DS.
Check back later this evening for more on the Wii's West Coast launch.