NEW YORK--The North American PlayStation 3 launch may have already come and gone, but for US gamers, one of the most epic weekends in history is only half done. The Nintendo Wii makes its worldwide debut this Sunday, with the official launch party beginning late Saturday night at the Toys "R" Us store in New York's Times Square.
Still, much of the air of excitement was released Thursday night and Friday morning, with mainstream media concentrating largely on the PS3's much-hyped (and occasionally violent) launch.
In contrast to the limited supplies of the pricy PS3 on Friday, Nintendo is expected to have a considerable supply of its $250 console available on Sunday with estimates hovering near or exceeding the 1 million mark. The official line from Nintendo is 4 million Wiis avialable worldwide by the end of the calendar year.
One only needs to walk the streets of New York to figure out that the desperation for a Wii hasn't reached the same level as that of the PS3. Whereas gamers lined up in front of stores almost a week before the PS3's launch, lines for the Wii were nonexistent in The Big Apple as of Thursday night.
With PS3 madness somewhat subsided, GameSpot News checked out the Wii scene on Friday afternoon, first stopping by the Times Square Toys "R" Us. Still, no line had formed outside the tourist destination, even with advertisements for the Wii launch party in plain view in the store's windows.
Employees at the store said gamers were free to line up in front of the store, but they didn't expect shortages of the console to be a problem, since they expected 5,000 Wiis to be on hand for the 12:01 a.m. Sunday launch. Still, it was interesting that none of the Nintendo faithful took the initiative to camp out, given that Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime will be handing out the first Wii.
Downstairs in the games section, much of the attention was still focused on the PlayStation 3, and more than a dozen gamers huddled around the two working demo stations (a few other kiosks were not working) playing NBA 07. For the record, there were no Wii kiosks and only a few Xbox 360s playable.
Employees busily prepared the store for the launch, and the area was littered with hundreds of boxes specifically labeled "Do not sell before 11/19/06"--obviously packages of Wiis, Wii games, and Wii accessories.
A few blocks away at the Nintendo World store in Rockefeller Plaza, it was a different story. The Nintendo-centric store had plenty of Wii demo stations and its usual stock of Nintendo rarities, including unique DS Lites, Game Boy Advances, and Nintendo-branded apparel.
But more importantly, the store boasted a line of gamers waiting for the Wii. At five strong, it was a modest line, but with an abundant supply and not much to gain from in terms of online auctions, a short line was expected.
The first person in line, Pat Barsalona, got to Nintendo World Thursday night, "when it was pouring rain." The next morning, Nintendo superfan Greg Nugent joined him, and around noon Joel Lopez made it a trio.
With Wii sales at Nintendo World kicking off at 8 a.m. on Sunday, the obvious question to the line campers was, "Why choose the Nintendo World Store over the midnight launch party at Toys "R" Us?"
Each had the same answer. "It's much safer here," said Nugent. "And come on, it's Nintendo World!" he said emphatically.
"We want to get it directly from the people who make it," Lopez added.
As for the chance to meet the highly adored Fils-Aime, Barsalona already had that covered. "Reggie came by earlier this morning," he said. "He shook my hand and congratulated me for being the first in line."
And while the line is barely 7-feet long now, the trio doesn't expect it to stay that way for too long. "It'll end up going around the block, definitely," said Nugent, recalling his experience when Nintendo game guru Shigeru Miyamoto signed autographs at the store.
Though the Wii line has barely begun, it's already obvious that it will be the complete opposite of what took place for the various PS3 launches.
"I heard that four out of five people waiting for the PS3 were going to sell it," said Nugent. "We're not doing that with the Wii. We want to actually play it."
Stay tuned to GameSpot for more coverage of the Wii launch in New York City, including complete coverage of the midnight event at Toys "R" Us.