Friday, November 17, 2006

Avid gamers, entrepreneurs line up for PlayStation 3

People camp out as they wait in line for a chance to buy Sony's new PlayStation 3 console yesterday at the Best Buy store in Mohegan Lake.

Avid gamers battled the masses and the laws of supply and demand last night for the privilege of spending hundreds of dollars for Sony's new PlayStation 3, which goes on sale today.

"This is out of control," Yonkers police Lt. Andrew Lane said late last night after managers of Circuit City at the Cross County Shopping Center called police twice to have several people removed from store property outside. Some would-be patrons tried to hide in a garage and stairwells at the shopping center, police said.

At the Best Buy in Yonkers, 27 people were camped out on lawn chairs under tents they bought at nearby sporting goods stores. They planned to wait until 7 a.m. today, when the store would hand out tickets to the first 27 people in line, who could then purchase one unit each when the store opened at 8 a.m.

First in line were three employees of Throgs Neck Games in the Bronx, who arrived about noon Tuesday. Store owner Israel Sanchez said he paid his workers "double what they would usually make" to wait in line, and he and his wife periodically stopped by to provide food, drinks and "moral support."

When it came time to buy the games, he planned to fork over the money for the units, which would cost $646 each with tax, he calculated.

Sanchez's strategy: "I'm probably going to hang on to them and wait for the rush to end," he said. "If you go on eBay now, you're going to get $1,400 or $1,500 for it. But if you wait until Christmastime, that's when you're going to get ridiculous prices, like $4,000 to $5,000."

He said he also planned to provide a commission to his sales manager, Clay Chapman, 21, of Throgs Neck.

"I didn't sleep in the cold for nothing," Chapman said. "And the rain - Oh, my God! ... people throwing eggs at us and stuff. It's been nasty. A lot of people are jealous."

Robert Vaughan, 20, of Yonkers also planned to sell his unit.

"I'm going to sell it to go on spring break," he said, adding that he hoped to go to Acapulco.

But his friend Eric Weiss, 20, also of Yonkers, a neuroscience major at Vassar College, home working for the semester, had every intention of using it himself.

"We decided we wanted to play PlayStation 3, and the only way to play it is to get it," said Vaughan, who was shielding himself from the rain under a (plastic) Twister mat until his friend bought a tent from Sports Authority.

He said he has an Xbox, but is ready to switch to PlayStation.

"I liked the Xbox for 'Halo.' I have a wall full of 'Halo' toys," he said. "But I'm ready to move on to 'Resistance: Fall of Man' and finding new games."

He said the PlayStation would also have clearer DVD viewing. "It's got Blue Ray DVD, and I like watching movies as clear as possible."

Wal-Mart spokesman Steven Restivo said the store in downtown White Plains only had six units even though the stores had advertised that they would have 10.

"Due to manufacturer allocations, the majority of retailers received limited quantities," Restivo said.

Store employees told the people waiting outside that the first six would receive coupons at 6:30 a.m. to purchase the units when the store opened at 7 a.m., and that the next four would get rain checks. In addition, the store informed the city's police department why the people were camped out in front of the store.

In Cortlandt, meanwhile, three dozen people camped outside two outlets for two nights for the rights to a limited number of PS3s.

What drove the 48-hour passion was a mix of pleasure and profit.

The Wal-Mart planned to open at 7 a.m. today to sell its first PlayStation 3 to the first person in line, 17-year-old Shaun Gallagher of Poughkeepsie, who had moneymaking in mind. He plans to sell his PS3 to the highest bidder on eBay. He figures he'll get up to $6,000.

In the other camp, where Best Buy planned to open at 8 a.m. today and sell its first PS3 to the first person in line, 17-year-old Joe Aviles of Ossining, it's all about the game.

"I'm going to play it," he said. "I can't wait."

In all, Best Buy expected to sell 26 of the prized PS3s to as many people in line today.

It was unclear how many PlayStations would be sold at Wal-Mart, where the line was locked at 10 people since yesterday.

The lines started Wednesday afternoon outside the two stores at the Cortlandt Town Center on Route 6.

The camps got a little competitive.

The people in line outside Wal-Mart walked across the parking lot at 4 a.m. yesterday and asked the folks in line outside Best Buy if they wanted to play football.

"Who wants to play football at 4 o'clock in the morning?" asked Jason Carrow, 28, of Putnam Valley. The Best Buy crowd was grouped in tents, watching DVD players that were rigged to car batteries. The Wal-Mart guys played football anyway.

Unlike other areas of the country, where fights broke out waiting for the release of Microsoft's Xbox 360 last year, there was a clear code of courtesy in Cortlandt.

"We are civil enough to accept the fact that there are 26 of us here," said Jason Carrow, 28, of Putnam Valley. "We know who number one is and we know who number 26 is. If somebody has to go to the bathroom, how are you going to cut somebody in line?"

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