PS3 lines stretch across U.S.


NEW YORK -- Die-hard gamers and entrepreneurs prepared to shell out $500 or more for the new PlayStation 3 console that goes on sale Friday, many of them after waiting in line for days despite the likelihood they'd go home empty-handed.

Retailers across the country arranged midnight sales at some of their stores. Lines sometimes stretched around the block, even for stores that wouldn't start selling the console until Friday morning. Deliveries went down to the wire with FedEx vans sending boxes of the sleek black or silver consoles to individual stores Thursday.

In North Dakota, potential customers braved freezing temperatures, some bringing tents and portable heaters.

"Personally I wouldn't wait five days outside in the cold, but the game is going to look great," said Mick Klein, a Best Buy manager in Fargo, N.D.

Others along the East Coast came out under threat of rain Thursday. Dane McCledon, a 20-year-old student from New Jersey, said he has skipped classes, slept on the street and endured some passers-by calling him crazy since joining a Manhattan line at 4 a.m. Tuesday.

Short supplies and strong demand could be the formula for trouble as Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3 makes its U.S. debut, a half-year late because of problems completing work on a built-in, next-generation DVD player. The struggling electronics company is counting on the PS3 to maintain and build its dominant position in video game consoles.

In Palmdale, Calif., authorities shut down a Super Wal-Mart after some shoppers got rowdy late Wednesday and started running around inside the store. In West Bend, Wis., a 19-year-old man ran into a pole and struck his head racing with 50 others for one of 10 spots outside a Wal-Mart.

At a Circuit City Stores Inc. location in New York, potential buyers traded accusations of line-cutting and tried to avoid fights amid heightened emotions.

"You can't even sleep unless you have your eyes open," Wataru Nada said near the end of the line Thursday morning.

Some customers were buying PS3 machines for themselves or as gifts, but many were hoping to resell them at a profit. Even before Friday's launch, units were fetching four or five times their retail price at the eBay Inc. auction site.

"As soon as I buy it, I'm going to sell it," said Jose Mota, 26, who grabbed the first spot in line Tuesday outside the Union City, Calif., Best Buy. "People will pay whatever just to get their hands on one."

In New York, Danny Correa, 19, said he had an offer of $1,500, but wants "at least three grand."

Machines sold out quickly in Japan when they went on sale last Saturday. Plagued with production problems, Sony only had 100,000 available for the Japanese launch.

Sony promised 400,000 PS3 machines for the United States on Friday and about 1 million by year's end. Worldwide, it was expecting 2 million this year, half its original projections. Sony has already delayed the European launch until March.

Even as retailers drummed up publicity by throwing parties and inviting celebrities, Best Buy Co. Inc. and others tried to lower expectations and curb any frustrations by warning customers all week that supplies would be tight. Game retailer GameStop Corp. said it won't be able to fulfill all of its pre-orders on launch day.

Jack Tretton, executive vice president at Sony Computer Entertainment America, said retailers will be receiving new PlayStations daily -- expedited by plane rather than ships.

"At some point we want to get to some degree of normalcy, but that remains to be seen," Tretton told The Associated Press, adding that seeing all the people camped out and lined up for the console "kind of makes all the effort worth it."

Enthusiasm for the PlayStation 3 wasn't dampened by its high price tag -- $500 for the basic model with a 20-gigabyte drive and $600 for the 60-gigabyte version, which also has built-in wireless.

By contrast, Nintendo Co.'s Wii, which goes on sale Sunday, retails for $250. Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360, which had a year's head start over rivals, sells for $300 to $400.

Sony crammed the PlayStation 3 with the very latest in cutting-edge technology, and it dominated the previous generation of consoles with 70% of the global market. The company is counting on a boost as it struggles to mount a recovery after several years of poor earnings.

The PlayStation 3 was supposed to debut last spring, but Sony announced in March that it was still trying to complete the copyright-protection technology and other standards for the Blu-ray DVD players. The company said those preparations were initially to have been completed by September 2005.

Gamers waited anyhow, even as Sony conceded Tuesday that the new console won't run some of the 8,000 titles designed for previous PlayStations despite promises of being fully compatible. Awaiting a second round of shipments wasn't an option for many.

"By next year, everyone is going to have it," said Ever Ortiz, a high school junior from the Bronx, sitting in a camping chair and fenced off by police barricades in one of New York's busiest neighborhoods. "It won't be a great thing."