PS3 Launch Day Adventure: The Eddie Chronicles

If you were wondering where I’ve been lately, then have I got a story for you. What fun I’ve been having! I feel like a child on his first visit to the dentis- I mean, Disneyland…

My Wednesday evening began with a call from my sister around 6pm, informing me of the lines developing at the Walmart in my hometown. This was startling news, as I hadn’t anticipated TWO nights of pure endurance, and wasn’t yet prepared to embark on this crazy journey. The journey, of course, was to acquire my very own PS3.

So I readied myself for the quest, and armed with a bag full of food, clothes, a tent, a sleeping bag, and my trusty spiral notebook, I set out to the nearest Walmart store. Too late – the six PS3s allotted to that store were already spoken for. A resourceful group had pitched a tarp pavilion and were lounging comfortably with collapsible chairs and copious amounts of blankets. They even had two portable DVD players set up, along with plenty of food to ration. I bid them a fond farewell and pressed onward.

The next stop was the Walmart Supercenter in Central Square, where I was greeted by the lovely sight of multiple tents and more lounge chairs. There were certainly more people than PS3s here, so I departed discreetly. The Walmart in Clay, NY was just the same, so I decided to stop and speak to a few queuers in hopes of scraping up some info on good waiting sites. One of them recommended Best Buy. Thanks Captain Obvious. I knew that Toys R Us was only slated to receive enough units to cover their preorders, so I eschewed that store on my way to Target. As I tried to attract the attention of the night staffer, I was approached by a couple of guys with the same intent as myself. They educated me about Target’s plan to allow a line to form beginning at 10pm Thursday night, and said they were headed for the Carousel Mall in Syracuse. It was only 2am at this point, so I opted to follow a similar path.

Upon my arrival at the shopping center, I was fortunate enough to encounter a security guard who I could only describe as a particular human orifice. He sent me away, citing the mall’s policy to keep everyone off the premises until 5am. A handful of cars were running laps around the exterior of the mall parking lot, but I spent my time eating bagels at the nearby bus station.

As 5:00 drew near, people came out in droves to line up at the mall doors. Security guards shouted orders to stay back while the mob approached as a collective unit. One sneaky teenager hid behind a column adjacent to one set of doors, but was quickly exposed by a few vociferous consumers. Finally, the guards remitted, and the crowd stormed the entrance, only to remain in wait for another hour, when the doors were to be opened. It was to be a race to the far end of the mall, where Best Buy and Circuit City silently waited.

What a race it was! When the doors opened, everyone crammed forcefully through and scrambled up static escalators, scattered through the food court, and sprinted down corridors to their retail outlet of choice. Best Buy was further away, but attracted more crazed customers, due to a higher projected stock of the elusive PS3. Soon after the pandemonium had abated, the shouting of men looking for someone who threw a garbage can down the escalator set the mood for a possible UFC-style throwdown. Somehow, the perpetrator was never found, and things calmed again, but the event had certainly seen its fair share of bumps, bruises and sprained ankles. I overheard tales of dropped phones, lost keys, and one case of a wad of money being deftly swiped off the ground, mid-stride. Unfortunately, being that I was wearing boots and carrying a duffel bag, I only managed to earn 40th place in the race for 35 consoles. It was somewhat disappointing, but there were still many establishments to consider, and I was off yet again.

I headed to the Best Buy in DeWitt, where operations were much more civil. There was a line–that’s all. The group had organized itself in a methodical, peaceful fashion, and did a much better job than the “ready, set, go” approach the mall had taken. Of course, all the spots were taken here, as well.

Feeling slightly defeated, I returned to the Target store in Clay, where the pair I had met there earlier were waiting in their car. They had decided to work in opposition to Target’s plan for a repeat of the mall parking lot, and had a list prepared with their names on it. I put my name down as well, and jumped in my car for a bit of a nap. It was 8am, and I had yet to sleep.

By the time I woke up, it was 10, and another car had arrived. Looking around, I noticed everyone else was in dreamland within their vehicles. I took the opportunity to visit a nearby EB Games, where the sales associate was quick to tell my why the PS3 was so amazing and why Sony would easily win the console race again. I left the store with a magazine.

“The list” endured until later in the afternoon, with 12 names on it. That just so happened to be the very number of consoles this particular store was slated to receive, although we didn’t know that at the time. The group was very peaceful and friendly – the way it should be when gamers come together like this. Everyone stood by the list and was prepared to honor it, whether they were first or last in line. However, disaster struck when we had our first meeting with the store managers. We were informed that our list held no value, and that the original plan to begin a line after the store closed at 10pm still stood. People waiting since the morning held NO priority. I tried my best to apply my keen skills in diplomacy, offering up explanations of why this avenue would be unfavorable, and suggesting solutions to remedy the situation, but to no avail.

Around 3pm the police were invited to join in the discussion, and the party was soon disbanded.

The parking lot filled to capacity sometime around 7pm, and a repeat of the Carousel Mall began to slowly materialize. By 8:30, a raucous gang had taken shape directly across from the store entrance, inching ever closer. The group was beaten back by the manager’s threats, and by cars driving down the roadway everyone was standing in. At one point, complaining about the obstructed thoroughfares and hindered business, he even eloquently shouted, “…I hope you people beat each other to death!” What a nice guy!

Eventually the police were called back, and I couldn’t help but have strange feelings of Deja Vu, and tried to recall whether I had predicted the events leading up to the riot at the doors. I decided that I had.

In the last minutes before 10pm another employee had taken over the responsibility of holding back the looming peristyle of flesh, but as they encroached upon his position, it seemed he just couldn’t handle it, and suddenly shouted, “OK, the line starts right here, right now!” There was a terrible dogpile and many people were crushed, either between others or up against the brick wall. Yes, the store was still open.

After the line was finally sorted out with the help of a few state troopers, the number of consoles was announced (a paltry 12), and everyone else was sent home. I managed to ask a few unfortunate shoppers how they felt about the whole situation, now that it was over and they hadn’t secured a spot on line.

“This is bulls***! I think they handled this horribly.” -Jeb

“I got yolked.” -Chad

I was also able to speak with one lucky gamer who had emerged victorious. I asked if it was worth it, now that all was said and done. His reply:

“F***ING HELL YEAH!! I never thought I’d be one of 200,000 in the country [to get a PS3 at launch], so YEAH!”

There you have it. The PS3 launch was an enormously popular event, where individual cases ranged from peaceful and pleasant pow-wows to savage and unsafe scenes of chaos. We can only hope that as few people as possible were seriously injured during the proceedings, and that Sony will keep their collective nose to the grindstone and churn out more of these systems… soon.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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