How to score an Xbox

Stampede to nab one of Microsoft's next-generation game consoles will hit full frenzy at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

If you need to find Joey Nelson at dawn on Tuesday morning, your best bet is a Best Buy near Los Angeles.

Like thousands of videogame enthusiasts around the country, Nelson--a 23-year-old quality assurance tester--will be waiting for the store to open so he can get his hands on an Xbox 360. The Microsoft game console will finally, after months of hype, go on sale just after midnight Tuesday.

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And while those with a little patience will likely be able to get Xboxes in the days or weeks following Tuesday's official launch, it's the threat of shortages that's drawing people like Nelson to early-morning lines.

"It seems like if I don't get it on day one, I might have to wait awhile," said Nelson,

In fact, there are countless ways that would-be Xbox purchasers can score one of the hot consoles, regardless of whether they want the $399 premium machine--replete with a wireless controller, a headset, a remote and an external hard drive--or the $299 "core" unit.

Several thousand hard-core players will have the first opportunity to buy one of the consoles at a 36-hour launch party in Palmdale, Calif., on the edge of the Mojave Desert. There, invite-only attendees will be able to buy their Xboxes beginning at 8 p.m. Monday night, Microsoft said.

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For those unable to attend the Palmdale event, there will be more than 15,000 retailers carrying the new Xboxes, said David Hufford, Microsoft's director of Xbox product marketing. And at least 4,500 of them will be opening their doors at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

Many retailers say they are expecting walk-up interest to exceed the number of Xboxes for sale on Tuesday. But not all retailers say they expect a problem.

"We're not aware of any shortages," said Karen Burk, a spokesperson for Wal-Mart, the country's largest chain of retail stores. "We're anticipating being able to meet the demand."

For those retailers that do expect more demand than supply, like Toys 'R' Us, Circuit City and CompUSA, early-morning visitors should expect long lines and systems designed to notify those in line whether they actually have a chance at getting an Xbox or not.

"The units we have in each store will be sold on a first-come/first-served basis," said Amanda Tate, a Circuit City spokesperson. "This is definitely a hotly anticipated item, so we are expecting demand to outstrip supply. We would definitely not be surprised to see lines outside the stores prior to opening."

Katie Means, a spokesperson for CompUSA, explained that those in line at her company's stores will be given vouchers guaranteeing the right to buy an Xbox. Until the vouchers run out, that is.

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