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Published: Wednesday, 11/23/2005

Xbox 360: Fans gear up for new game system

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ken Wegrzyn waits in line at Best Buy on Monroe Street for
his chance to purchase Microsoft s new Xbox 360 system.
Ken Wegrzyn waits in line at Best Buy on Monroe Street for his chance to purchase Microsoft s new Xbox 360 system.
Enlarge

No serious gamer wanted to miss out, and Lorne Linkes was serious.

Knowing the Xbox 360 - likely to be the hottest and most elusive gift of the holiday season - was going on sale at local Best Buy stores at 8 a.m. yesterday, he and a friend decided to get there early.

They arrived at 2 a.m. - Monday.

"Gotta be first," the 19-year-old said.

Arriving 30 hours ahead of time will do that.

To some of the store's other customers, it was an odd sight as the afternoon progressed: a line of chairs snaking down the side of the building, a couple dozen people shivering in camping chairs, layered in sweatshirts, and buried in blankets and sleeping bags.

"Half of them think we're out here waiting for the after-Thanksgiving sale," said Mr. Linkes, who is a brick mason from Erie.

But to those in the industry, this was no surprise. Everyone knew the Xbox 360, Microsoft's sophomore effort in the $28.5 billion-a-year global video game industry, would be a hot commodity that would sell out immediately.

Jim McCree, wrapped in a blanket to keep warm, waits with about 40 others for the Toys R Us on Monroe Street to open.
Jim McCree, wrapped in a blanket to keep warm, waits with about 40 others for the Toys R Us on Monroe Street to open.
Enlarge

The system is essentially a high-powered computer loaded with graphics features for gaming in addition to offering a connection to the Internet for live online game playing. The gadget provides a connection to access personal music and photo files, and can even be used to host video conference calls.

And it comes at the right time: New releases by its rivals Sony and Nintendo won't be out until next year.

Microsoft has said it expects to sell as many as 3 million Xbox 360 consoles within the first 90 days of the launch. Its supply is stretched, though, because of upcoming launches in Europe and Japan.

Which is why people like Mr. Linkes were willing to spend all night in frigid temperatures.

"I don't want to wait until January to get it," he said.

The Best Buy on Monroe Street managed to get 44 of the consoles, and General Manager Don Stump said he's not sure when it will have more.

"As they make them, they're going to send them to us," he said. "We'll sell them immediately."

The consoles are the next generation in video gaming, offering more power, better graphics, and the ability to play music, display photos, and show DVDs. A basic version is priced at about $300 and a higher-end one with more accessories and a 20-gigabyte hard drive goes for $400.

Some, like Eddie Jones, 21, of Toledo, were willing to pay more.

Best Buy sold some consoles only as part of a bundle of items for $800. This was a shocker for some in line, who found they waited all night only to discover they couldn't afford the package, which sometimes was all that was left. It was merely a technicality for Mr. Jones, though.

"Just had to get more money," he said.

Thousands of stores across the country held special events shortly after midnight yesterday for those who just couldn't wait until morning. The Meijer store in Maumee had a drawing for its eight Xbox 360 consoles that drew a crowd of more than 200 people.

"It was pretty much the only place open," said Salvatore Masciarelli, a 20-year-old University of Toledo student from Cleveland. "I've called Findlay. I've called places in Michigan."

He arrived at the store at 10:30 p.m., more than an hour before the lottery. As he waited, he pondered about whether it would be better to keep the unit or try to turn a profit by selling it on eBay, where some were going for more than $1,000.

Jean Carsten, 50, of Waterville, was there with her husband, son, and his girlfriend. More depended on them winning the drawing than just a chance at owning the next generation of video gaming. Failure meant a cold night waiting at Best Buy, where her 15-year-old son was holding a place in line.

"If we win here, we don't have to wait all night over there," she said.

Like many, Matt Gankosky, spent the day driving around town, trying to find the best place to get the game system. He and a fellow UT student, Dustin Krukowski, found themselves 21st and 22nd in line at the Wal-Mart store in Oregon, which had only 20 consoles.

So when Mr. Krukowski's name was called in the Meijer drawing, it was time to celebrate.

"I couldn't believe it," Mr. Gankosky, 22, said as he watched his friend in the check-out aisle, exhilarated to be only minutes away from a chance to set it up and play. It was obvious what was coming next.

"Probably buy some beer and go play some games," he said.

Down the street at Toys R Us, a line of 40 people wound back from the main doors before they opened at 9 a.m.

Jim McCree, 47, of Toledo, was among them, hoping to buy for his two kids (and - shhhh! - himself). A paramedic by trade, he was the perfect person to have there on such a cold morning, in case anything happened to anyone, right?

"I'll get my Xbox first," he joked. "[But] I will call 911."

Contact Ryan E. Smith at:

ryansmith@theblade.com

or 419-724-6103.



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