Jarred Lord, 7, grabs his Playstation 3
Robyn Beck  /  AFP - Getty Images
Jarred Lord, 7, grabs his Playstation 3 after waiting in line for a 12:01 am release at a Best Buy store in Los Angeles on Friday. The new Sony console, expected to be a hot Christmas item, will be available in limited supply.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 11/17/2006 4:57:59 PM ET 2006-11-17T21:57:59

Thousands camped outside stores on Friday to be among the first U.S. buyers of Sony Corp.'s new PlayStation 3 video game player, but violence marred the debut when one man was shot in a robbery attempt.

He was one of 15 to 20 people waiting outside a Connecticut Wal-Mart to buy PlayStations at about 3:15 a.m. EST when they were confronted by two armed men who demanded money, police said.

The man was shot when he refused to give them money. He was in serious condition at a Massachusetts hospital, police said.

Unruly crowds prompted the closure of two Wal-Mart stores in Palmdale, California, earlier in the week and skirmishes broke out in front of other U.S. stores as nerves wore thin for shoppers, some of whom had camped out for several days.

And John Stromberg, 22, of Seattle, told MSNBC.com he was injured when an unidentified man tried to steal his PlayStation 3 in the parking lot of a Best Buy outlet.

Stromberg said his tooth went through his lip in the fight, requiring stitches. But the hard-won machine was unharmed.

Was it worth it? "Definitely," said Stromberg, who planned to resell the machine for a hefty profit.

Party atmosphere
In many cities, with hundreds of gamers waiting outside stores, the wait turned into a social event.

Finger food was showered upon weary shoppers outside Sony's midtown Manhattan store, while thumping music blared. Some turned discarded bags of shredded office paper into billowy chairs and a lamp shade sheltered one man from the rain.

Investors are closely watching the PS3 launch as a key test of Sony's grip on the $30 billion gaming industry, particularly as it faces rising competition from rivals at Microsoft Corp. and Nintendo Co. Ltd.

Sony is expected to rake in millions of dollars in revenue on Friday alone, with about 400,000 units expected to be available, one week after the initial launch in Japan. Data on how many consoles had been sold was not immediately available.

Depending on the hard drive, each PS3 sells for either $500 or $600 and Sony aims to make 1 million units available in the United States by the end of the year.

On Friday, hundreds of new PS3 owners made their own profit by reselling their $600 machines on Internet auction site eBay Inc. As of midday, 564 had sold for an average price of $2,711, and 2,037 more units were on offer, according to eBay Marketplace Research. Outlying bids reached $30,000.

The video game shopping frenzy will be capped this weekend by the debut of Nintendo's much-anticipated Wii console on Sunday. Some industry watchers predict the lines outside stores could be bigger than those that formed for the PS3 launch.

PS3 party key to turnaround
The PS3 buzz is a welcome break after a tough year for Sony, following a recall of nearly 10 million of its computer batteries, delays in the PS3 and a growing price war in the flat-screen TV market.

Sony shares closed 1.3 percent higher at 4,770 yen in Tokyo on Friday.

Sony is expected to lose money at first on each PS3 sale. The unit can also be used to surf the Internet, download video and music and play movies with a Blu-ray high-definition disc drive. But high production costs have dragged Sony's game unit into a deep loss for the year through March.

Experts suggest each PS3 could last 10 years and go a long way toward helping Sony stay atop the gaming market, as well as make Blu-ray the standard for next-generation DVDs.

"Gaming is our primary focus, but the PS3 does so much that it can become the centerpiece of a home entertainment system," Kaz Hirai, chief executive of Sony Computer Entertainment America, said in an interview.

Some analysts say the PS3's high price could deter non-gaming consumers and open Sony up to stronger competition from Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii.

"They will sell out of the 400,000 (units), with the hard-core gamers," said IDC analyst Danielle Levitas. "But with Blu-ray, they are betting their strongest business unit on a technology that it's not clear most consumers want."

Only about 500 PS3s were available for sale at the midnight Friday launch in New York, officials said, leaving hundreds out in the rain holding on to promises that more boxes would be made available when the store reopened at dawn.

In Boston, police were called in to turn away hundreds of gamers waiting at a Best Buy store after it turned out the outlet did not have a permit to open at midnight.

Angel Paredes, who waited four days through rain storms in New York, was the first to buy a PS3 in the United States, and vowed he would not put it up for sale. Kamau Romero, 24, an educator, who was No. 3 on the line, was not so certain.

"It would take a lot to get it out of my hands, but it is possible. You never know," Romero said.

(Additional reporting by Kenneth Li and Nick Olivari in New York, Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles, Eric Auchard in San Francisco and Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston)

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