With several celebrities on hand, pounding hip-hop music in the background, bright flashing lights and a line that nearly wrapped around the block, it seemed as if there was a new nightspot in town having its grand opening.
But this wasn't a dance club; it was the corporate headquarters of Sony Electronics, here, where at midnight Friday, Nov. 17, Sony's PlayStation 3 video game console went on sale. Hundreds had lined up for days for a chance to score the coveted machine, which is the latest entry in the never-ending video game console wars.
Sony hadn't released exact numbers on how many units would be on store shelves this week, but the company hoped to satisfy as many people as possible. According to a company spokesperson, "we're still tracking towards 400,000 units in North America with an additional 100,000 coming each week through the end of the year." The target remains to have 1 million units on shelves by Dec. 31.
Despite a gloomy day with early evening rain, including heavy downpours at times, it did not rain on Sony's parade.
The mood was far from gloomy at the Sony Style Store on Madison Ave., located in the lobby level of Sony's building, where the scene was not just another gathering of the faithful, but a full-blown party that had begun at 9 p.m., and included appearances by Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer and president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America Kaz Hirai, along with hip hop artist Ludacris and comedian Charlie Murphy.
The first unit went on sale at exactly midnight, and New York City native Angel Parete had been among those who waited more than 40 hours for his chance to get the machine. "I am tired, but so excited," said Parete, as he posed with Stringer and Hirai.
The lines were not limited to the Sony Style Store either, as major retailers opened their doors at midnight to begin selling the new video game console. This included the flagship Best Buy store in midtown Manhattan, where fans weren't treated to such a bash, but still felt the wait would be worth it.
Carlos Serrano, customer service manager for Best Buy, said he could not provide specific numbers, but added that the wait would pay off, when the PS3 went on sale at 12:01 a.m.
"Those in line were told that they have a very good chance of getting a PlayStation 3 tonight," he said.
Whether that means early adopters will be getting the basic version with the 20GB hard drive, or the deluxe version with the 60GB hard drive, and HDMI outputs remained as uncertain as the weather.
Many of those who were lucky enough to purchase consoles were likely to turn around and sell them at a ballooned profit.
Ebay said that on the morning of Nov. 17, there were 1,579 live listings for PS3 systems, with an average price of $1,959. On Nov. 16, 334 systems sold for $2,184 — and "we are expecting today to be another busy day."