Sony stages grand PS3 entrance

Electronics giant makes big show of console's arrival in San Francisco...by parading empty boxes in front of delirious crowd.

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SAN FRANCISCO--On the press invite for Sony's PlayStation 3 launch party at the Metreon shopping complex, Sony listed a series of events leading up to the first sale at midnight, pacific standard time. At 8 p.m., the electronics giant had scheduled the "dramatic delivery of PlayStation 3 shipment," which presumably meant the stirring moment when the first batch of 700-odd consoles would finally arrive at the flagship PlayStation Store.

At 8:15 p.m., a San Francisco Police Department SUV pulled up in front of the store on the partially blocked Fourth Street, sirens blaring. An officer jumped out, ostensibly due to a noise complaint, and ordered the DJ outside to stop spinning old-school hip-hop at a high volume. Once the beats had receded, two SFPD motorcycle patrolmen pulled up Minna Street, followed by a trio of black SUVs.

The three SUVs screeched to a halt in near unison, blocking the width of Fourth Street. A dozen-odd security guards in crisp suits piled out, talking into palm-held microphones like those used by the US Secret Service. But while they looked like the president's bodyguards, the phalanx of agents weren't protecting a head of state. Instead, they fanned out to protect the arrival of a large silver semitruck, which pulled up inside the protected perimeter.

As the backdoor of the semi pulled up, Sony Computer Entertainment American executive vice president Jack Tretton emerged from the crowd, flanked by two fearsome bodyguards. He reached inside the truck, took out one of the many boxes inside, apparently at random. From said box, he produced two PlayStation 3s, which he held aloft with no small amount of pomp and circumstance.

Workers quickly piled the rest of the boxes onto carts, which were wheeled inside the PlayStation Store faster than a liver transplant onto a medivac helicopter. The crowd outside, most of whom wore wristbands guaranteeing them one of the consoles, understandably went wild. More than six years after the PlayStation 2 caused a similar launch fervor, its successor had finally come to America.

Ironically, though, the boxes the crowd was cheering contained something other than the PS3--namely, air. Yes, the "dramatic" delivery was in fact just a staged event for the press, cameras, and soon-to-be-PS3 owners. Though the boxes were authentic--even bearing air-freight stickers with a Shanghai origin and Los Angeles terminus--the boxes paraded in front of the crowd were, in fact, empty.

Once inside, the PS3 boxes were quickly broken down by PlayStation Store staffers, who whooped and high-fived each other a la Borat, believing their ruse had worked. The flattened containers were then taken behind a curtain--where more than 700 PS3s already sat prepacked in PlayStation bags, waiting for the stroke of midnight to be handed out. Inside the store, store workers unpacked hundreds of PS3 games, including Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07, Resistance: Fall of Man, and Tony Hawk's Project 8. Though the arrival had been a hoax, the throng outside would soon experience the PS3 for real.

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