NEW YORK--Yesterday, when the gaming world was still reeling in the wake of the PlayStation 3 launch, the Times Square Toys "R" Us, official site of the Nintendo Wii's 12:01 a.m. Sunday launch, had yet to see a single soul lined up for it. At the nearby Nintendo World Store in Rockefeller Plaza, the scene wasn't much bigger, with a mere handful of faithful fans camped out for the system.
What a difference a day makes. Saturday afternoon, hundreds of people had lined up at the two stores to be among the first in the world to buy a Wii at retail. While the gaming giant is releasing its next-gen system tomorrow in the US, gamers in its home country will have to wait until the December 2 Japanese launch to get their hands on it.
While both stores had respectable lines of people forming, the difference between these crowds and those attending the PS3 launch was like night and day. The Toys "R" Us crowd existed in an orderly line snaking along the block, rather than the massed clump of those waiting for the PS3. Early on, a member of the line had started a sign-up sheet to keep the order straight, and the line itself was self-policing, for the most part.
And while the 50 or so campers outside of the Nintendo World store weren't terribly organized, they seemed much more at ease and laid back than the PS3 crowd, with its own distinct kind of buddy-buddy camaraderie.
"It's cool waiting here at Nintendo World," said Joe Lopez, who arrived at the store around noon on Friday. "If I get bored, my buddies will just hold my place in line while I go inside and play the Wii [on one of the store's demo kiosks]."
One observer noted that the crowds waiting for the Wii were decidedly "less gangsta" than those who camped out for the PS3.
The scene was still hectic at Toys "R" Us, where the hustle and bustle of everyday foot traffic in the heart of the Big Apple is only amplified by having to share the sidewalks with a crowd of gamers. Many passersby expressed an interest in the line, although the most common question they asked of those waiting seemed to be, "Is this the line for the PS3?"
Those sorts of questions likely became less frequent this afternoon after the store hung giant banners advertising the Wii along its exterior and began promoting the official launch events on a huge LCD screen outside the store. About a dozen police officers arrived on the scene as well, closing down 44th Street to set up a stage for this evening's launch festivities.
Inside Toys "R" Us, Nintendo had finally set up Wii demo kiosks. Wii Sports, Rayman, Zelda, and Excite Truck were all available for play, and a Nintendo representative was on hand to help walk gamers through the system. An interactive monitor with Mario was also there, with a man, through a webcam, voicing the iconic plumber and chatting up passersby.
While most of the commotion for the Wii so far seems to be coming from the core gamer crowd that Nintendo has always courted, it appeared that Nintendo's strategy of bringing in the nongaming crowd with an intuitive and inexpensive console is working, at least for one family. Just after checking out the Wii in the Nintendo World store, a family of tourists expressed their interest in the machine.
"How much is it," asked one child's mother, to which the father replied "$249." Surprised, she merely noted, "$249? That's not expensive at all!"
Check back later tonight for more GameSpot coverage of the Wii launch.