EU gamers finally grab hold of PS3 consoles


Diehard gamers around the world, some of whom had queued for nearly two days, finally got their hands on brand spanking new Sony Playstation 3 games consoles after midnight launches in Europe, the Middle East and Australasia. Sony and other major retailers had talked up the long-delayed launch, organizing special late-night events for those who couldn’t wait until Friday morning to pick theirs up, though the console’s hefty price tag appeared to have dampened the consumer frenzy that greeted launches of its earlier versions. In the basement of Virgin Megastore’s flagship London outlet, hardcore video game fans who waited in line for more than a day for the midnight launch were rewarded by Sony, which gifted each of the first 125 a new 42-inch Sony TV.

“It feels great, man, especially with the free TV on top,” a jubilant Atkah Armah, 28, told AFP from the store, after collecting his PS3. “We were sitting in the queue for about 50,000 hours, and all of a sudden, some guy came out and said, ‘There’s a free TV’, and then he goes, ‘and everyone in the queue’s going to get one’.

“That was pretty amazing,” Armah said, adding that he was going straight home to start playing his copy of Ridge Racer.

Virgin Megastore said it had booked extra security and free taxis to whisk gamers home and avoid them falling prey to muggers.

In Paris only about 50 people turned out for the 1,000 PS3s available at a ceremonial launch at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

Mohammed, 26, noted that the gamers were not showing the same enthusiasm that greeted the launch of PS2 in 2000 when “people were fighting each other to get their hands on it.”

At over a dozen stores across the city that opened at midnight to sell the consoles few gamers were on hand to snap up a PS3, which owners put down to its price. The PS3 does not come cheap, costing 599 euros (US$800) in Europe and 425 pounds (US$836/626 euros) in Britain.

In Berlin a rock concert was to be held at the Sony Center, the company’s European headquarters, to entertain fans waiting to buy a console.

Stores in Australia and New Zealand were the first to open their doors to eager gamers, and organizers had predicted that thousands of gaming fans would turn out to snatch up the first of the next generation units that were given a glitzy launch at Sydney’s Myers Department Store.

In the end, just 65 excited gamers queued outside Myers department store for around four hours, before being allowed inside where they barely outnumbered staff and publicists.

Nevertheless, advertising sales executive Danny Zarka, 31, said the midnight wait had been worth it.

“I was really thrilled to be the first one to get my hands on this baby before anyone else,” he told AFP as he clutched his new PS3.

“It’s going to be a sleepless night, but I haven’t scheduled any meeting for early tomorrow,” he added before heading home.

The PS3 was originally scheduled for worldwide release in November, but production problems meant it was only made available in Japan and the United States, where there were punch-ups and at least one shooting at frenzied launch events.

In the United States, Nintendo’s cheaper Wii console outsold the new Sony in February by more than two-to-one, according to the NPD Group consultancy, while Microsoft’s Xbox 360 also outsold Sony’s console there.

Some gaming fanatics were not buying into the hype, criticizing Sony’s decision to sell only the top-of-the-line 60-gigabyte version of the PS3 in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Australasia. Chris Stead, former editor of Australian GamePro, said he would not rush to buy the console, which retails for A$1,000 (US$808) in Australia, even though he was impressed with features such as a Blu ray DVD player.

Stead said the gaming community was concerned the PS3 lacked “backward compatibility,” meaning they could not use it to play games purchased for the PS1 and PS2.