Japan counts down to Wii launch

GameSpot scours the streets of downtown Tokyo to see how gamers are preparing for the trans-Pacific launch of Nintendo's new console.

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TOKYO--Two weeks after the North American Wii launch, Japan has started its own countdown to the debut of Nintendo's new system. Tomorrow, 400,000 units will go on sale, more than quadruple the number of PlayStation 3s that were available at its November 11 launch. Even with that quantity, stores quickly ran out of preorders last month. With less than 24 hours left until the console's December 2 debut, GameSpot took a late-night stroll on the streets of Tokyo to see how gamers that missed out on reserving a unit were girding themselves for the next generation of Nintendo.

In Shinjuku, the largest shopping area of Tokyo, more than 400 people had already lined up at Bic Camera, the closest store to the Shinjuku subway station, by 11:40 p.m. Most of the Wii seekers were equipped with winter clothing, sleeping bags, food, and game handhelds. Over the course of the chilly evening, the crowd continued to grow, including men, women, and a few homeless persons hired by scalpers intent on reselling Wiis at a profit. When the clock struck midnight, the store began handing out numbered tickets, which ensured holders a console--as long as they stayed in line.

Surprisingly, the Shinjuku Yodobashi Camera store, which had a line of approximately 780 people for the PS3 launch last month, was completely deserted aside from employees unloading Wiis from trucks. As it turns out, there was a line of more than 700 people by 9 p.m., which grew to more than 1,000 in less than an hour. At 10 p.m., the store decided to avoid any chaos and gave away tickets that could be exchanged for a Wii on launch day. This is the first time that the Shinjuku Yodobashi has ever decided not to have a line for a new gaming machine in the past four years--which included the PSP, Nintendo DS, DS Lite, and PS3 launches. In front of the closed store, there was already a "Sold Out" sign (pictured) with a note saying the date of the next scheduled Wii shipment is unknown.

The Shinjuku Sofmap store also didn't have any consumers waiting out in the cold, as the store will only be selling to customers that had preordered last month.

Sakuraya, which was one of the few stores that publicly announced the number of Wii they'll be selling (160 units), isn't going to officially create a line and give out any numbered tickets until the morning of December 2.

In the electronics district of Akihabara, the streets were fairly deserted, as most of the midsized stores were not scheduled to sell any non-preorder units on launch day. Laox Asobit City, which had a line of nearly 250 people at the PS3 launch, also closed preorders last month. Gamers, the closest game store to the train station, will be holding a raffle like many stores did with the PS3.

The Akihabara Yodobashi Camera had a crowd of nearly 1,500 people around 10:30 p.m., 30 minutes after employees began handing out tickets redeemable for a Wii. The crowd eventually dispersed, leaving behind a few stragglers in the parking lot who wanted to get a Wii as soon as the store opens.

GameSpot will be back in the morning to cover the Wii launch in Japan. Stay tuned.

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