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Good luck getting a PSP

Many retailers have already sold out their initial shipments of the handheld game machine. But there's still hope.

You've seen the big, crystal-clear screen, the action-packed games and the surprisingly easy-on-the-eyes movies playback, and you've decided you have to have a PlayStation Portable. Good luck.

Sony's new handheld game machine and multimedia gadget goes on sale Thursday in North America, but shoppers will have a hard time buying one if they didn't place an advance order.

Major retailers began taking orders for the PSP shortly after Sony announced stateside availability, and most report they've already sold out of their initial shipments. Order now, and you'll get your PSP sometime next month.

The online store for specialty retailer EBGames, for example, cites an April 12 delivery date for PSP packages. Best Buy offered advance orders only to select customers and sold out its supply in a few hours. Amazon partner ToysRUs and specialty retailer GameStop won't promise a delivery date now, saying only that orders will be shipped on a first-come, first-served basis.

You'll need even better luck if you don't want to pay more than the $250 retail price for the standard North American PSP package. Most retailers are only selling the PSP as a part of a "bundle" that includes numerous games and accessories the consumer may not actually want. The cheapest PSP package at Wal-Mart's online store, for example, is $374.45, with one game and a host of hardware add-ons. Most Canadian consumers will have to pay for a package that includes a copy of Sony's "Gretzky NHL" hockey game.

Those who absolutely have to have a PSP next week may want to pull out a sleeping bag and prepare for a long wait in line. Several major retailers, including Circuit City, decided not to take advance orders for the PSP--initial supplies will go to whomever is at the head of the line when stores open on Thursday morning.

San Francisco fans don't have to wait for sunrise, however. Sony is keeping its PlayStation store at the Metreon retail complex open late to begin selling PSPs--one per customer--at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday.

For the truly desperate, there's always auction giant eBay, where the standard North American PSP package is selling for a $100 or so premium over the $250 retail price, but the Japanese package can be had for a little more than $200.