Sony caps SF PS3 line at 'around 700'

PlayStation maker clamps down, handing out numbered wristbands, dispatching spokesmodels, and dispensing food to patient gamers in the rain.

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SAN FRANCISCO--After some initial confusion, the biggest San Francisco line for the PlayStation 3 has grown much more orderly. Though it appeared to be mobbed this morning, the queue outside the Metreon shopping complex, formerly owned by Sony, has gone from restless rabble to sedate throng, thanks to a security clampdown and elaborate crowd-management system.

Unlike the scene at 8 a.m., the line on Fourth Street in front of the Metreon at 1:30 p.m. was calm and almost placid. Metal security barricades now completely encircled both the Minna Street lines and Fourth Street lines, the latter of which had been considerably shortened since the morning. On hand were around 20 Sony employees--including a dozen-odd spokesmodels--in red and black uniforms, as well as about 10 San Francisco Police Department officers. A full lane of the always-busy Fourth Street was also blocked off to accommodate trucks off-loading equipment...and burritos.

Yes, following the Napoleonic motto that "an army always marches on its stomach," Sony commissioned two mobile kitchens to dispense gratis Mexican food to the PS3 line. In turn, this development led to the orchestration of a bathroom-pass system more complex than that of the strictest high school. Those wishing to relieve themselves had to sign a form and were handed a large black laminated pass which allowed them temporary reprieve from the light rain that had begun to fall by early afternoon.

Those who departed the PS3 line could return with confidence knowing their place was secure. In stark contrast to the unruly crowd in New York City, those waiting outside the Metreon were given numbered red wristbands guaranteeing them a console. The bands were handed out in no specific order, with some at the front of the line having higher numbers than in the rear. That said, Sony employees on hand assured GameSpot that "around 700" wristbands had been handed out and anyone wearing one was guaranteed a console when they went on sale at midnight.

There was one catch to the orderly PS3-dispensation scheme. As was the case in Tokyo last week, those in line did not know which model of the PS3 they would get. "I don't know if I'm getting the good one or the crappy one," Chris, 22, said as he hunkered down on a lawn chair on Minna Street. "All I know is I'm getting one."

The excess crowd that had congregated in the morning had apparently been dispersed without incident. But for those hoping to budge in line, New York-style, another anonymous PS3 buyer had two choice words. "You're SOL," he said, gleefully brandishing bracelet number 338. He then motioned to the half-dozen security guards in windbreakers standing fast at the back of the line, laughing.

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