Brits get PS3 for breakfast

London's morning launch events go smoothly, as eager gamers come to pick up the console in one of the early-opening stores.

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LONDON--The two breakfast launch parties this morning for the PlayStation 3 console were low-key--around 300 people came through the doors at one of the two Oxford Street stores that opened early. At the official Sony event last night, inside the Virgin Megastore down the road, Sony made the shock decision to give away Bravia 46" HDTVs to all those who had been waiting in line for a console. At the morning events, things were a little less dramatic, with Game giving away bacon butties, coffee, and pastries, while HMV had martial artists and models in tennis gear posing for pictures for fans and photographers.

Despite the fact that they had already preordered consoles, some fans braved the freezing cold weather and security concerns to wait in line all night, ensuring they could purchase a PS3 first thing this morning. Ajay Abdulla, 23, was at the front of the Game line, where the store staff decided to open the doors earlier than they originally proposed at 7 a.m. He had been waiting since 2.30 a.m., as he had been worried that there might be a huge crowd of people. He said, "I was excited, but now I'm just tired after waiting for hours. I've never been to a launch before." When asked why he came out for this one, "Because it's a PlayStation. I'm just not that into the Xbox."

Andrew Kemp, 42, was first in the queue at HMV, where he'd been waiting since midnight. He said, "I'm frozen! But I wanted to be near the front because I've got to go to work after. But if I'm a bit late, it doesn't matter, they know I'm here, they were teasing me with, 'You geek, you!' and, 'You nerd!' and, 'Boys will be boys!' I've heard it all this week!"

Further down in the queue, Bill Cormack, 25, had arrived at 6 a.m. He said that he owned every single console. "I was actually in HMV buying something when they started taking preorders so I thought, why not?" He added that he'd unfortunately have to wait until he got home at the end of his working day to play on his long-awaited console, although, "I am thinking of buying a cable so I can play it at work."

The HMV event was run in conjunction with Sega, who were giving away copies of Virtua Tennis 3 to the first 150 people to buy a PS3. When asked if she was disappointed that only 100 or so people came to the event, as opposed to the 1,500 or so who queued for a Wii, or the 3,000 who turned up for the World of Warcraft expansion pack The Burning Crusade, Sega's UK head of marketing Tina Hicks, said, "Actually, I think it's great to see so many people here. I feel here the excitement of the key gamers, which is what drives our industry. And, [as to the numbers] I think that's because there is so much stock, people know they can get one, and possibly because of the price point. But, if you look at the events, I don't think the price point is really putting people off."

HMV's head of games, Tim Ellis, said that initially he was unsure of what to expect from the breakfast event. He said, "We've never done an early-morning launch before, but I think it's worked out really well." He added that almost everyone in the store was picking up extras, including a second controller, cables, and games. He said, "I think the average transaction value is about £600, so the price obviously is not that much of an issue."

Last night 50 regional HMV stores were open for midnight launches across the country, and "at least" 1,000 units had been sold, according to Ellis. He believes that it will be the summer that will make or break the PS3, "Finally, we've got two next-gen consoles [competing in the market]. And I think over the summer, that's when the price will matter...or not."

Anna Macario, marketing director for Game, said the company also had regional openings but chose a breakfast launch for its flagship Oxford Street store. She said, "It was very different [doing a breakfast launch as opposed to a midnight one]. We can create a whole lot more atmosphere and theatre with a midnight launch, for instance, making a countdown to 12."

Sony's UK national sales manager, Mark Howsen, thinks that the launch events have gone really well for Sony and is especially pleased that they have been free of crime. He told GameSpot, "I think there are a lot of positive things about this launch because there are a lot of security issues, which we are very aware of." The two other major Oxford Street retailers had chosen to change the time of their events from the traditional midnight launch time to an early-morning opening the day after consultations with Westminster Council and the Metropolitan Police. The launch in the US was plagued by a series of crimes, including shootings and thefts.

Speaking on the decision to give out HDTVs to customers in the queue for the official Sony midnight event at the Virgin Megastore, Howsen said, "We took the decision yesterday to reward our customers, some of whom had been waiting for two days."

He reiterated that the push back in PAL regions for three months had been beneficial for consumers in some ways. Howsen said, "It's quite a positive thing, because in the past we've had it where first there's been a large amount of stock, and when that sold out...Where we are now is that we're going to keep the momentum going into the second week, and we've got another delivery to replenish stock, too."

He also commented that one of the reasons behind the delayed European launch had been to put a stop to scalpers reselling the console. He said, "If you look on eBay now, the actual bidding price is currently below the SRP [Standard Retail Price]."

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