PS3 Launch In New York: Rain, Rap, and Brits

Where would you expect to see a Knight of the British Realm, a notorious hip hop artist (and entourage), a video game character and a bunch of desperate journalists on a Thursday night in New York City? Try the Sony Style Store on Madison Ave. The normally upscale store for expensive electronics – all from the Sony brand – along with the lobby for Sony’s NYC corporate headquarters were transformed into must-visit destination for those hoping to get their hands on the PlayStation 3.

And apparently those rumors of Microsoft’s Weather Control Machine were just rumors, or something I made up this afternoon. Despite an early evening downpour, the weather cleared and at midnight it was unseasonably warm for the masses still waiting in line.

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 Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer and president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America Kaz Hirai.

The event truly resembled a carnival rather than just a product launch, and this included performances by hip hop artist Ludacris and comedian Charlie Murphy, brother of Eddie Murphy and source of most of his material. The evening also included an introduction of the new Lara Croft, or at least the latest English model playing the famous Tomb Raider. Despite this star-studded turn-out, much of the focus was on the actual PS3.

In fact, many fans were still waiting in line outside, while the festivities were happening inside. Asked one tired and desperate looking individual who had hopes his waiting wasn’t in vain, “Were you just in there? Do you think I’ll get a unit? Am I wasting my time?”

Of course, as of yesterday afternoon Sony hadn’t released exact numbers on how many units would be on store shelves this week, but hoped to satisfy as many people as possible. The goal from Sony was to ship 400k units in North America for launch day, with an addition 100k coming each week through the end of the year, and a final target remains to have one million units on shelves by December 31st.

A few blocks away the scene was less jovial at the flagship Best Buy store, where Carolos Serrano, customer service manager said fans had lined up for 40 hours. Apparently waiting in line for 40+ hours can take its toll, especially as Best Buy wasn’t playing loud hip hop music, offering scantily-clad video game heroines and finger foods. Among those in line at Best Buy were a couple who refused to comment, or even give their name if they weren’t paid. “We want $5,” said the female of the pair. “The media has been bugging us all day. You pay us $5 and we’ll answer all your questions.”