Expecting to find hard-core gamers drooling with anticipation to rip into the boxes and settle in for marathon gaming sessions, I instead found a group of young entrepreneurs.
Although itsand $600 for a 60GB version, those in line said they believed a single PS3 console could bring in $1,000 to $3,000 if auctioned on eBay, Craigslist, or to family and friends. That possibility definitely trumped the honor of being one of the first U.S. owners of the .
"This is better than an hourly job," said Stan, 19. "It's better than minimum wage."
Like many I spoke with, Stan declined to give his last name as he plans to turn around immediately and sell his console to the highest bidder. He and his friends, decked out in hooded sweatshirts and baseball caps, played cards to while away the hours in line. Because he heard that eBay was restricting PS3 sales to sellers with a 98 percent feedback score and at least 50 previous sales, Stan said Craigslist would be his best bet.
A Sony representative told me that, by its count as of 6:30 Thursday morning, 750 people were lined up. Though the line officially began at 8 a.m. Thursday, Sony said the first people showed up at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
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The crowd of mostly young men protected themselves from the cool, damp weather with hats, beanies, sweatshirts and puffy jackets, some nervously eyeing the darkening skies from beanbags, lawn chairs and sleeping bags spread out on the sidewalk. The first line snaked south down Fourth Street and east around Howard Street. A second queue ran down the Minna Street alley that dead-ends into the front of the SonyStyle store entrance.
One man, already in line for 16 hours by Thursday morning, said he planned to keep one console and sell three.
"There are some true gamers here, and some who know you can make a profit," said Jesse, 32, of San Francisco. Jesse considers himself both. He said he was the third person in line to get a PlayStation 2 a few years ago, and made $3,500 selling it right away. But still, he said, he was looking forward to playing the, despite the complaints of some that the initial game titles were not anything to write home about. "Just let me play Madden, and I'm good," he said.
Besides their business sense, many brought their buddies, siblings and girlfriends to wait it out. Thomas, 28, arrived at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday alone, but with a portable DVD player, dominoes, a radio and a chessboard in tow.
As to why he was waiting in line, he shrugged, "I've always followed trends and the market. And this came out on my day off." Thomas has already come up with a strategy on how to make the most of the launch event's serendipitous timing. "It sounds like maybe $3,000 may be the starting bid. I got bills and stuff. I got a credit card I have to take care of."
Lucky for them, Sony isn't just tolerating the huddled masses taking up sidewalk space outside its store. I watched (a bit envious) as baristas from the Starbucks across the street ferried pastries, eggnog lattes and peppermint mochas to the crowds. And Sony said there's more where that came from.
"Everything today is about the people in line," said Sheila Bryson, a spokeswoman for Sony Computer Entertainment America. A taco truck was scheduled to make the rounds at noon, and dinner will be served by Mel's Diner. Later in the evening, the Red Bull Street Team is scheduled to pass out sugary energy drinks, I imagine, to keep the sleep-deprived PS3 faithful from passing out.
Robin, 24, of Davis, Calif., and Frank, 25, of San Francisco, both said they were "undecided" about whether to keep or pawn the players. Though there is money to be made by selling, "it is the PS3, and there's not a lot (of them) out there," Robin said.
Andre, 31, was one of the few more interested in playing the PS3 than profiting from it. Reclining in a lawn chair outside the Metreon, he said he had claimed his place in line at 4:45 Wednesday afternoon. "I'm interested in the graphics for sure," he said. "I really don't know about (the Blu-ray Disc player), but I know it's going to be fast, have better control and better memory."
But his brother, John, 20, was not wasting time salivating over features. Settling into his lawn chair, he snorted, "It's already gone."