PlayStation 3 launches in North America
Sony's new baby hit the stores, amidst fans waiting in lines, rare cases of violence, and more frequent cases of journalistic madness.
Saturday, November 18, 2006 - Today, the PlayStation 3, Sony Computer Entertainment's third home console, launched in North America. With just 400,000 units available in stores, the most avid fans of the system - and those just planning to resell it for twice its price - have been waiting in lines for hours outside stores across North America. The North American launch comes six days after the console launched in Japan with less than 100,000 units.
(Posted: Saturday, November 18, 2006, 12:47AM GMT)
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"With today's launch of PS3, we are officially ushering in a new era in true next-generation entertainment for homes all across North America," said Kaz Hirai, president and CEO of SCEA in the official press release. "The innovative PS3 system features powerful technologies and capabilities that have never been brought together in one system, including the Cell Broadband Engine, BD drive, HDD and online connectivity as standard features of every system. The results are breathtaking new interactive worlds to explore, eye-popping multimedia functionality, and a fully integrated online experience - all in high-definition clarity. The value we are providing consumers with PS3 is beyond compare."
Despite Hirai's enthusiasm, the launch of the PlayStation 3 has been saluted with a unique mixture of excitement and criticism by media and gamers. Low shipments (less than 400,000 units were available in stores today because of production problems, according to Sony), coupled with past delays in the launch of the console, turned out to be a great advertising campaign, which effectively fueled the PlayStation 3 frenzy among die hard fans, those ready to exploit them reselling consoles at online auctions, and occasionally, real criminals (that, in some cases, coincided with either of the two aforementioned categories).
In fact, while the launch went well in most cities and towns, with people waiting patiently in long lines and store clerks trying to figure out fancy ways to assign the limited stock of consoles without enraging anyone, there have been a few isolated cases of violence. The most serious accident happened in Putnam, Connecticut, where two young gunmen tried to rob 20 people waiting in line outside a Wal-Mart and shot Michael Pankala, 21, of Webster, Massachusets, who refused to surrender his money. Michael was wounded in the chest and shoulder, but he should recover soon, according to Connecticut State Police. Not more than 30 miles away, another shopper was robbed of his new PlayStation 3, a couple of minutes after he bought it at a store in Manchester, police said. Reports of similar incidents (some of them still little more than "I heard from my mother's uncle's cousin" kind of rumors) came from other cities in United States. As usual, the media overreacted a bit, describing a situation closer to Mad Max than to reality, with inventive headlines like "Robbers prey on PlayStation 3 buyers" (cnn.com), "Rash outbreaks of violence occur all across the country" (gameshout.com), "Playstation Sparks Armed Violence, People Shot" (torontodailynews.com), or the one I prefer, for its brevity and elegantly sober clarity, "Playstation violence" (wifr.com).
More than the few thugs that saw in lines of youngsters, each with at least $700 in his/her pockets, the best target a thug could ever dream of, more than the usual idiots that preferred to cause confusion and use violence instead than waiting in line like everybody else, and more than those buying a console just to resell it on eBay, what should really concern gamers is that a company like Sony and some of the world's biggest store chains couldn't come out with a better, well-organized strategy to sell the console on launch day. Considering that stores make nearly no money from selling console units, with most of the profits coming from software and peripheral sales, Sony could have sold most of the launch units from its online store, leaving software and peripheral sales to resellers. A simple idea like this, or something along these lines, could have actually worked nicely, but wouldn't obviously have created the same kind of free advertising campaign that today's PlayStation 3 frenzy generated.
The PlayStation 3 launch was also plagued by a relatively poor launch line-up, with Resistance: Fall Of Man, developed by Insomniac Games, being considered by most of the critics the only great game available for the system. But, after all, the lack of a rich selection of titles available at console launch is normal in the gaming industry. The PlayStation 3 is undoubtedly a terrific, well designed machine, filled with exciting features, probably more versatile than the Xbox 360 or the Wii, but Sony must fight this console war with exclusive software, and we will have to wait many, many months until the first truly supposedly groundbreaking titles reach the system.
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Until then, happy gaming.