As a video-game fanatic in my own right and as the editor of four game magazines in Brazil, I knew that to satisfy our readership with firsthand reviews I had to get my hands on a Sony PlayStation 3 on 17 November, the day it was to be released. After all, it was hyped as the most powerful game machine ever. The trouble was that Sony’s game division had no official presence in Brazil, and that it pretty much ignored the local media, despite the country’s several million gamers. If I wanted a PS3, I would have to come to New York City and wait in line.
And the waiting promised to be long. Because of production snags, reportedly due to shortages in Blu-ray laser components, the PS3 launch was going to be plagued by a scarcity of machines. Sony had originally planned to have 400 000 PS3 units for its U.S. launch, but industry analysts were saying the company would ship no more than 150 000. Sony remained optimistic, saying that by year-end it would ship 1 million PS3 units in North America, but again, some analysts estimated shipments would reach only half that amount.
Although I arrived in New York three days before the launch, lines were already forming at some stores. At my hotel room in Times Square, I strategized with the two Brazilian co-workers traveling with me. We decided to camp outside the Sony Style store in midtown Manhattan, on the ground floor of Sony’s U.S. headquarters, where the New York PS3 launch party was to take place. The store was going to receive 400 PS3 units, many times more than any other retailer in the city.
We crammed food, water, winter clothing, and umbrellas into our backpacks, then went to a discount store for three beach chairs, at $15 apiece. We got to the line, at the corner of Madison Avenue and East 56th Street, at 10:18 a.m. on Wednesday, 15 November—launch day minus 37 hours and 42 minutes. There were 152 people standing in front of us, so we were among the 400 lucky souls.
We killed time text-messaging our moms and wives in Brazil or playing our PSP and a Nintendo DS portable game systems. We also got acquainted with the folks around us. Chris, a talkative Bronx native sporting an NFL jersey and green headband, told us he wanted a PS3 for himself badly, but reselling it on eBay was an enticing proposition as well. His solution? To get an extra PS3, he had dragged his teenage sister along. The line even included some who didn’t quite know what a PlayStation 3 was. Case in point: a hapless secretary dispatched to the line to buy a PS3 for her boss’s son.