Waiting out the PS3

Lines form outside retail establishments in Tokyo as gamers gird for the PlayStation 3 launch.

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Curious onlookers plan their strategy.
Curious onlookers plan their strategy.

TOKYO--The final day before the long-awaited launch of Sony's PlayStation 3 in Japan has dawned. Now, with only hours remaining until shops open their doors to start selling the next-gen console, GameSpot took it to the streets to see what the situation was. Were lines forming, as they had in the US? Had the Sony faithful turned out in droves? Or--confronted with fewer and fewer consoles on sale--had gamers given up and stayed home?

The lights of Akihabara.
The lights of Akihabara.

The first place GameSpot checked out was the Shinjuku Yodobashi Camera store, where back in 2004 Sony Computer Entertainment president Ken Kutaragi showed up to celebrate the official launch of Sony's first foray into the portable gaming market, the PlayStation Portable. Though one would expect to see a line of gamers forming as early as 4 or 5 p.m., security guards were constantly breaking up any groups of people, telling them that they were not allowed to loiter during business hours as it creates problems for neighboring stores.

But as time passed into late evening, crowds nonetheless began to gather around the store, and by 8 p.m., the mass eventually grew to over 300 people. Approximately an hour later, Yodobashi staff began directing the crowds into an orderly line, and were expected to start giving out numbered tickets for rights to a PlayStation 3.

Getting a closer look.
Getting a closer look.

A similar scene was spotted at the Akihabara Yodobashi Camera store, but in a larger scale. At 9 p.m., the store was already teeming with more than 600 people. Although the store staff was not ordering people to create an orderly line, customers took the duty into their own hands and were already lined up around the block waiting for the store to open--the line was organized into orderly rows of two people side by side. Here, there were a considerable number of homeless people lining up as well. Most likely, they are being hired by scalpers to pick up PS3 units.

In this photo sent by a GameSpot reader in line, the crowd is moved to a parking garage to wait out the night.
In this photo sent by a GameSpot reader in line, the crowd is moved to a parking garage to wait out the night.

While the Yodobashi Camera chain drew gamers in good numbers, other stores, including the Shinjuku Bic Camera, Sakuraya, and Akihabara Sofmap, had absolutely no people lining up as of late evening.

With the initial shipment of PlayStation 3 units expected to be 80,000 units--or lower--for the whole country, many of the stores decided that they just don't have enough units to sell at launch and have decided to sell them through raffle drawings Saturday morning. At those places, no lines were formed as of press time. However, it will likely be a different scene tomorrow morning, when the stores start handing out the raffle tickets.

GameSpot will bring additional updates later today, with GameSpot staff in line themselves reporting back on the conditions on the streets of Tokyo--and possibly picking up a unit themselves.

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