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Sony launches Playstation 3 in the U.S.

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Chicago (IL) - An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 Playstation 3 consoles are going on sale today. The first devices were sold in midnight launch events, while most consoles will be distributed when electronics stores and other retailers such as Walmart and Target will be handing them out in the morning. Ebay sales are picking up steam, with sellers asking for as much as $7000.

What it is all about : The PS3 in detail ...

Waiting for the PS3 : Tent cities forming in front of stores ...

PS3 Launch slideshow : Hawthorne, Calif. ...

A long and painful journey is ending - or beginning, depending on your view - for Sony today, as the company releases the first batch on its much hyped Playstation 3 in the U.S. Initially planned to ship in a volume of two million units for global launch, Sony recently reduced its launch volume to 500,000 (400,000 units for the U.S.) Analysts even speculated that only 150,000 to 200,000 units may have reached these shores so far.

Lucky PS3 campers get their consoles - Video

Click to start the video ...

The introduction of the console was delayed several times over the past few months and provided Microsoft’s third-generation console Xbox 360 a twelve-month head start. Rumors about possible PS3 delays began to circulate in February of this year when analysts mentioned that Sony was trying to figure out ways to avoid some of the enormous production costs of the device. In March, first reports indicated that there may not be enough production volume of the Nichia-built blue laser diodes to support a full fledged global launch of the console - which was confirmed by Sony later and turned out to be the reason for the drastic allocation cut. Playstation boss Ken Kutaragi also said that the Blu-ray version of the content protection system AACS (Advanced Access Content System) was finalized much later than originally expected.

Aside the delays and production cut, Playstation 3 buyers - especially those who actually intend to keep the console - own an impressive piece of hardware. The higher-end 60 GB model, which retails for $600, integrates the first Cell processor that consumers actually can buy, Nvidia "Reality Synthesizer" graphics engine, Toshiba’s Emotion Engine, 256 MB GDDR3 graphics memory, 256 MB XDR memory, a 60 GB hard drive, an Ethernet port, Wi-Fi integration, and Bluetooth 2.0 capability that can handle up to seven wireless controllers. There’s also a massive 400-watt power supply as well as a Blu-ray drive (see the details about both Playstation 3 versions in our slideshow.)

Persistence breaks resistance

Getting a Playstation 3 was either a matter of luck, as pre-orders of the console were sold-out in a matter of minutes, or patience and persistence. First Playstation fans lined up nine days ago at a Best Buy store in Burbank, Calif. The group was booted of the Best Buy property after four days of waiting, but the group returned a few days ago and lined up once again (for details see links in our complete coverage section.)

PS3 tent city in front of a Best Buy store

Throughout the U.S., we hear, people interested in getting a PS3 had to get in line at least at 8 pm on Wednesday to have a shot at one of the consoles in stock. Waiting in front of a retail store may not only be boring, but can be brutal, if you do not live in one of the southern states. We visited groups of waiting people in front of a Target, Best Buy, Circuit City and Walmart in the western suburbs of Chicago on Thursday night : Bundled up in thick jackets, blankets and, in some cases, protected through tents, people camped outside store entrances at temperatures of around 33 degrees. Most of the people we talked to either took vacation from work or were students who skipped school.

Extreme PS3 waiting at 33 degrees outside a Walmart store in suburban Chicago

People told us that they kept themselves busy mainly with chatting. Some brought video games and notebook computers, which served as entertainment and music machines. Every store we visited had a filled waiting line that accounted for the entire Playstation supply of each store : 38 at Best Buy, ten at Walmart and ten at Target. Store managers confirmed that the waiting crowds were peaceful. Occasional complaints from the store employees came as the regular trashcans weren’t able to handle the extra garbage generated by its visitors.

Food did not appear to be a problem. We noticed a steady flow of cars - apparently friends and parents - who delivered coffee and Hot Dogs. In a rather strange development, the lines even encouraged Pizza delivery services to drive by the lines and handout unordered Pizzas for $5 a piece.

Artificial demand

Perhaps most interesting about the Playstation 3 lines is the fact that the majority of people in line could care less about the console. Eight out of ten people we talked to do not intend to open the package, but auction their PS3s off right away on Ebay. Nearly two days of waiting may pay off in a $3000 or $4000 sale on Ebay, some hope.

Bids for PS3 consoles started to come in early Thursday. At the time of this writing, more than 3300 consoles were offered for sale with most bids ranging in the $1500 to $2000 range and most Buy Now prices listed in the $3000 to $4000 range. However, the first page of the most expensive PS3 offers had 14 sellers that listed their "Buy It Now" prices at more than $5000 : One seller is trying to get $7000 for his PS3.

$7000 for a PS3 and free shipping is extra : Screenshot of PS3 listings on Ebay

At least judging from our observations, the shortage of the consoles has created the hope that a few days of waiting may bring the money for this year’s family Christmas presents and the next vacation. One may wonder whether the supply of this expensive game console would actually have been enough for the people who actually intend to play with it.

Now it will be interesting to see how much the gamer crowd is willing to pay the waiter crowd for a black plastic box that puts out video game graphics in 1080p. In any case, an Ebay Playstation 3 may the only way to get a console before Christmas at this time : A Best Buy store manager told us that he is not expecting more shipments until eraly next year.

Complete Playstation 3 coverage :

Articles about ...

... PS3 launch coverage :
PS3 buyers turn to Craigslist to find line waiters
PS3 fans quit jobs and postpone engagement to wait in line - Video
Taiwan gets 500 PS3 consoles for launch, U.S. PS3 allocation reduced again ?
Best Buy boots Burbank PS3 line - Updated with Picture
Best Buy cancels PS3 pre-orders
Lines begin to form at retail locations for PS3
Sony gets strong PS3 start in Japan

... PS3 technology :
PS3 firmware update required out-of-box
PS3 controller looks a little wimpy against Nintendo’s Wii
Yellow Dog Linux to run on PS3
Logitech intros Chillstream controller for PS3
Sony ditches rumble pack in favor of motion sensor in PS3 controller

... PS3 games and content :
PS3 has trouble with some older games
Sony unveils details of PS3 online services
Nearly 40 games confirmed for PS3 online download service
Preview : Heavenly Sword for PS3
First Impressions : Gundam : Mobile Suit for PS3
First Impressions : Insomniac’s Resistance : Fall of Man for PS3

... PS3 delays and allocation cuts :
Sony drastically cuts PS3 launch allocation
PlayStation 3 may face delays due to production costs
Will Sony PlayStation 3 dry up supply of blue laser diodes for Blu-ray ?
Sony to launch PS3 in November, blames Blu-ray for delay
Wii, not Xbox 360, may have prompted PS3 price cut in Japan
Sony cuts PS3 price and adds HDMI to base model

Playstation 3 Analysis :
iTV vs. Microsoft Media Center vs. PS3 : The Big Battle of 2007
Yankee says Sony will sell 30 million PS3 consoles within five years
Will Blu-ray sink the PlayStation 3 ?
Playstation 3 delay could derail high definition agenda
Sony’s high-stakes, high-definition gamble on PlayStation 3
PS3 hardware and manufacturing cost estimated at $840
PS3 teardown : Gambling with fire

Slideshows :

What it is all about : The PS3 in detail ...

PS3 tent cities forming in front of stores ...

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