SF PS3 mob nears 1,000

Burgeoning mass of gamers congregate outside the Metreon complex; first 750 guaranteed consoles following near-scuffle.

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SAN FRANCISCO--With the PlayStation 3's North American debut just hours away, the natives are growing restless. San Francisco natives, that is, who are gathering outside the city's Metreon shopping complex, site of the flagship PlayStation store. Whether they were perched on the sides of metal barricades or seated comfortably in collapsible lawn chairs, the hundreds-strong crowd had gathered for a single reason--to be one of the lucky 400,000 American gamers to get their hands on a PS3 on launch day.

It all began around 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, when a plucky quintet of Sony enthusiasts put down stakes. Due to liability reasons, the crowd was not allowed on the sidewalk in front of the Metreon. Instead, they were ushered by security guards hired by Sony to a line on Minna Street, a small alleyway across from the gleaming temple to the gods of commerce. According to those on the scene, by late Wednesday night, the line had grown to around 500, at which point security guards cut it off, shooing away stragglers.

By early Thursday, however, the throng had swelled to more than 700 people, and San Francisco Police Department officers were dispatched to maintain order. Despite that, the façade of civilized behavior almost sloughed away around 7:30 a.m., when Sony employees ordered most of the crowd to relocate onto the sidewalk immediately in front of the PlayStation store on Fourth Street. Immediately, many began to rush to the front, and, according to those waiting in line, "things got ugly" when a scuffle nearly broke out. However, the eager gamers were coerced back by promises from PlayStation store officials that the first 750 people in line were guaranteed PS3 units--indicating that the retail outlet was flush with stock of the sought-after console.

By 8 a.m., the scene had grown more chaotic. The line was divided in half, with the first 500-odd people in line waiting on Fourth Street and several hundred more relegated to Minna Street. But while the Minna crowd was tightly controlled by a half-dozen security guards and the same number of SFPD officers, the Fourth Street line was relatively unattended. While baristas from a certain ubiquitous coffee-shop chain handed out free samples, dozens of newcomers armed with lawn chairs, laptops, and PSPs glommed onto the back of the Fourth Street line. By 8:30 a.m., the queue had snaked around the corner onto Howard Street, passing the pedestrian overpass to the Moscone Convention Center.

Despite the deteriorating sense of order, a Sony rep on hand said that everyone in line--which was pushing 1,000 by 8:45 a.m.--was still guaranteed a PS3. However, if the crowd's size continues to increase at the same rate it had this morning, that could swiftly change. However, as of press time, an SFPD rep could not comment on specific crowd-control plans, saying only that officers would be dispatched should the PlayStation store--or any other retailer--call for backup.

Come back later for more of GameSpot's coverage of the PS3 launches in New York City and San Francisco.

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