The to the near $30 billion video game industry and will be fighting
"I've been waiting for this day to come for so long. I'll play it all through the weekend. No time for meals," said hardcore gamer Tomoaki Nakamura, who already owns a PlayStation, a PlayStation 2, a PlayStation Portable handheld machine and an Xbox 360. (For a CNET Reviews encounter with the PS3, .)
Nakamura, 41, was one of about 1,200 people in the meandering line around electronics retailer Bic Camera's flagship shop in central Tokyo.
Further up the queue was Robyn Sinclair, a 25-year-old exchange student from Vancouver.
"It's the newest system, the latest and greatest thing...although the Nintendo Wii looks very interesting, too," said Sinclair, who waited for more than 12 hours in the late autumn chill to score one of this year's hottest holiday items.
In the countdown to the 7:00 a.m. Tokyo time store opening, Ken Kutaragi, head of Sony's game unit, spoke to those in the queue.
"I'm grateful that so many people are waiting for the PS3...I hope you will enjoy the next-generation entertainment to your heart's content," he said.
has a Blu-ray high-definition DVD player and the Cell microchip, dubbed a "supercomputer on a chip," which provide lifelike graphics and high-speed downloading of game software and video clips.
But they have also driven up production costs, dragging Sony's game unit into a deep loss for the year to March.
Bic Camera said all its PS3 stocks were gone by noon, but declined to say how many units they had sold.
Tight supplies had been expected as Sony was able to ship only 100,000 units for the launch after a glitch in blue laser diode production caused a delay.
The electronics and entertainment conglomerate sold nearly a million units of Playstation 2, the earlier version of the console, in the first three days of its Japan launch in 2000.
Sony has dominated the global video game industry for the past decade with its two previous models.
But its iron grip could be loosened by the PS3's high prices and the strong performance of rival machines, as well as competition from handheld games, the Internet and mobile phones.
The basic model of the PS3, equipped with a 20GB hard-disk drive, sells for 49,980 yen ($425), almost double the price of the Wii and more than a quarter higher than the Xbox 360.
Microsoft was first to launch the latest-generation game console, bringing its Xbox 360 to market late last year, a year ahead of Sony.
By the end of 2006, Microsoft expects to have shipped 10 million Xbox 360s, well ahead of the PS3's expected shipment of 2 million units.
Following the Japan launch on Saturday, Sony plans to start rolling out the PS3 on November 17 in North America, and next March in Europe.
Nintendo's Wii, which features a one-handed controller that looks like a TV remote and uses motion-detection sensors to allow players to control the game by wielding it like a sword or swinging it like a tennis racket, will go on sale on November 19 in the United States and December 2 in Japan.