Thursday, June 12, 2008

PS3 launch, 2 years later

Since the day the Super Nintendo released, I've purchased pretty much every video game console I've ever owned on it's launch day (or very close to it). I saved up dishwashing money to buy my first Gameboy, Sega Genesis and Turbo Graphx-16. I purchased the Atari Lynx from David, and received both the Sega CD and TG16 CD drive as Christmas gifts (back to back years I think). I delivered pizzas in order to buy my N64 on launch day (and had to drive 70 miles away from my home to get it). I skipped from the Gameboy color directly to the GBA and bought the Dreamcast when it launched on 9-9-99. I believe that was the same year I also bought a Furby.

When the Playstation 2 launched in 2000, I was on a business trip somewhere in Atlanta. I had just ordered room service after a long day and was watching the news before bed. The top story was about all the kids lined up for the PS2 launch...and I suddenly realized that I should be out there. Despite the fact I was in a strange town and had no idea where I'd be going, I set my alarm for 3am, woke up, got some directions and jumped in the rental car. I drove down to the Target parking lot I had seen on TV where they had about 36 to sell. I was number 32 in line and ended up flying my trophy home in my carry-on luggage.

A year later, the original Xbox would launch. I had tickets to a Weezer concert on the night of my birthday, but I spent the evening before lined up with 300 other dorks waiting to be the first to get my hands on the most powerful console out there. It was probably one of my favorite birthdays in recent history (second only to the ones spent in Vegas). John and I showed up before anyone else, but when we realized there was no line, we left to get pizza. When we got back, we had become number 7 in line......and Microsoft had showed up to hand out free slices. Damnit. The news was there, and we held our systems high in triumph as we headed home to play some Halo multiplayer. This console spawned the "Halo party", something that has easily become my favorite gaming tradition of all time.

The next console I picked up would probably be my Gameboy SP (I actually bought two of these and gave one to my nephews), followed by the Gamecube. I did not buy that on launch day, only because they didn't ship with a Mario title. I waited for Mario Kart and Super Mario Sunshine, then picked it up. I think those are the only two games I ever really used it for.

In 2004, there would be a midnight launch event not for a console, but for a single video game title. It would be my first time standing in line for hours to buy a single game, but certainly not my last.

2005 marked by the beginning of the "Next Gen"...with the 360. I had a pre-order all lined up for that one, but ended up giving it to John after I snagged a special launch one through MS. A few months later I picked up my first Mario Kart flavored red DS (which I later sold when the white DS Lite version came out). I picked up my PSP in 2005, and haven't used it much since.

In 2006, the Wii shipped..and I picked mine up on the used market from someone who wasn't impressed with it shortly after launch. 3 days after I bought it, I realized why he sold it to me. The thing sat dormant for a year until Mario Galaxy came out, then Mario Kart...which quickly became the killer app for that system so far. The PS3 also launched in 2006, but there weren't any games I wanted for I passed.

2007...was basically the same story as far as the PS3 went. Because I already owned an Xbox 360, the Playstation 3 just wasn't worth buying that year. The best games out for it were all available on my 360, where they looked better and could add to my gamerscore. I was waiting for Metal Gear.

The last couple of years have brought several decent game releases to go with all the new systems I owned. I managed to get hooked up with Grand Theft Auto without having to stand in line, and I have recently devoted several posts to the glory that was Mario Kart Wii. My Xbox 360 and my Wii have been seeing a lot of action in the first 6 months of 2008.

Tonight, MGS4 was released, and I decided it was finally time to break down and buy a PS3. It's been kind of weird knowing the thing was out there for 2 years now and I didn't have one, but tonight's big game released pushed me over the edge. Luckily for me, the release of MGS4 was almost like a product launch all over again. My trek to get this system was no less eventful than any other system launch night...perhaps moreso. How so? Read on.

Wal-Mart was selling the 80GB machine bundled with Metal Gear Solid 4 along with a 100 dollar free gift card, and I wanted one of those. I called all the local Wal Marts, and they were all getting these bundles...but didn't know how many. Only 3 Wal-Marts were open at midnight on the 12th, so on the 11th...I started calling them. It was 6pm and Lynnwood had 6 consoles coming and 4 people in line. I drove up there....doing about 90mph all the way.

When I arrived, there were already 6 people in line. I had just missed my shot. I decided to head home and try getting up early the next day for the morning release (seeing as the other two midnight Wal Marts were up north, and were not giving out gift cards). On the way home, I stopped at Best Buy to exchange a CD I had purchased there a few days prior. On the way in, I noticed that there were only about 10 people in line for MGS4 there.

I asked the clerk in the video game department how many they were getting. He said he couldn't tell me, but that it was between 40 and 60. I asked the folks at customer service if they would be price matching Wal Mart. They confirmed that they would, if Wal Mart had them in stock. I decided I would be taking my chances tonight and that this would be my store.

It was just after 8pm when I got into line in the 14th spot. John joined me shortly after...and by 10pm, the line had stretched around the corner of the Best Buy. Craig showed up sometime just after 10 with two lawn chairs he had borrowed from me and my niece. She became the youngest person standing in line for the M-rated video game, but eventually got a little cranky and had to go home to bed. She's probably a Wii "fangirl".

Above: The folks directly behind me in line enjoy my lawn chairs (I had been sitting at work all day and was in a sharing mood) while John, Craig and Sasha smile at the camera.

Below: The line around 11pm.

This gentleman in the shopping cart specifically said: "This picture had better not end up on your Myspace page". Technically, it never did. :-)

Below, I am apparently giving the "PS3" gang sign (which is very confusing considering the fact I'm wearing a giant roman numeral "4" on my sweat shirt).

Just after 10pm, we had some Pizza Hut pizza delivered. We ordered 4 medium pizzas for just over 30 bucks. I chipped in 10, and the folks in line made up the other 20. It was more than enough food to share with everyone we'd been chatting with all night.

At 11:45, the Best Buy folks came out to let us know "the rules" of the sale. They'd be letting in small groups at a time, and there would be no pushing. We pulled one of the salespeople aside and asked about the price match with Wal Mart.

"We won't be doing that, because they aren't open" said the Best Buy employee.
"Lynnwood, Tulalip and Everett are all open 24 hours and will selling them" I replied.
"Well, We're not going to call them, so you'll have to have the ad ready" he said.

I was suddenly in trouble. I had no paper copy of this ad, I had planned on using the "call it in" method of price matching. My hope was that even though Wal Mart only had 6 bundles, they'd confirm they had it in stock as the clock struck midnight, and I'd get 100 bucks off. One soul in the line actually had a print out of the gift card ad, so I took a grainy camera phone image of it and hoped that would suffice. A dozen other line dwellers crowded around this kind patron and snapped pictures with their phones as well.

Midnight struck and they filed us in. John and I were in the first group. I grabbed my PS3 and headed right to the customer service desk, but was directed to the register instead. I informed him that I wanted to price match, and he said "Wal Mart? No problem". They were ready for us.

He handed me a single gift card from a stack of dozens, I paid and was on my way. Outside, other eager folks were busy counting consoles as they came out, and one asked "Are they price matching?".

"Yes" I said. "I didn't even need the ad. Good luck".

I drove home with my prize....the latest, but certainly not the last video game console line having been a complete success. Now..I just need to find some time to play the damn thing.