Reggie launches Wii in NYC

Midnight launch of Wii at Times Square Toys "R" Us draws thousands; Fils-Aime is big hit with the Nintendo faithful.

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NEW YORK--Isaiah "Triforce" Johnson's eyes were feeling heavy, but even after getting little to no sleep over the past few days, the man could not help but smile very early on Sunday morning.

Johnson was sold the first Nintendo Wii at the Toys "R" Us in Times Square after waiting several days outside the retail giant's flagship store. And it wasn't just any normal store employee who rang the register; Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, did the honors of handing out the first system.

It was the conclusion to a four-hour long launch event staged by Nintendo and officially marked the first time all three next-gen consoles were available at retail.

Susie Castillo talks to some
Susie Castillo talks to some "nongamers" who were entranced by the Wii.

Earlier that evening, the line of gamers waiting to purchase a console hit the corner of the street and wrapped around all four sides of the city block.

Nintendo started its launch festivities at 8 p.m. on 44th Street, which was partially closed off to traffic. A stage was set up in the street, where entertainment ranged from drummer/disc jockey DJ Ravidrums, acrobats AntiGravity, and MTV veejay Susie Castillo.

But the real hit was Fils-Aime, who was welcomed to the stage with chants of "Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!" and "We love you Reggie!" While gamers professed their love for the exec, Fils-Aime gave the usual rah-rah pep talk, and even made a reference to his famous "taking names, making games" speech from the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2005.

Reggie hyped the crowd up.
Reggie hyped the crowd up.

Unlike the PlayStation 3 launch party--which was limited to a few hundred who lined up for days, each one competing fiercely for a place in line--Nintendo welcomed everyone to their block party. The crowd was incredibly diverse, featuring the mix of people that Fils-Aime claimed the Wii targeted--young, old, casual, and hardcore gamers.

To keep the line entertained, several Wii demo stations were placed right on the sidewalk and gamers entertained themselves and relaxed by trying out titles like Wii Sports and Excite Truck. Nintendo also gave out several Wii-branded knit caps, which gamers wore with pride.

Wii tennis, anyone?
Wii tennis, anyone?

But it wasn't just Nintendo helping the crowd out. A group of visual-arts students were handing out seat cushions, coffee, buttons, and patches to those waiting in line, all in the name of spreading good will.

Behind the scenes, Fils-Aime chatted with the press, talked to fans, and even spent a little bit of time playing the Wii. At one point, he played a round of Wii Sports tennis with a fan in line, which caused a near riot in the streets as fans rushed over to get a closer look at their idol.

Luigi was there. Sort of.
Luigi was there. Sort of.

Earlier in the evening, Fils-Aime urged gamers buying Wiis to purchase their consoles in an orderly fashion, and when 12:01 a.m. hit, they obliged. Several registers were open to sell consoles, games, and accessories, and the line moved along at a quick pace.

Overall, the launch appeared to be a big success for Nintendo, with plenty of units on hand for those who waited throughout the launch event. For those who did not have one of the necessary wristbands to buy a console, Nintendo promised that there would still be plenty of additional consoles available today.

Johnson and his personalized Wii.
Johnson and his personalized Wii.

While Wii fever was almost ubiquitous among those outside the toy store, it didn't quite ring with everyone. One woman walking by Toys "R" Us after the launch asked her friend what everyone was milling around for, then realized it was for the Wii.

"Oh, it's for that dumb game thing," she said.

Apparently Nintendo's quest to make gamers out of everyone still has a way to go.

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