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Last Updated: Friday, 23 March 2007, 02:00 GMT
Sony rewards patient gamers
By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website

PS3 launch
UK gamers hold aloft their PS3s
Sony's PlayStation 3 console has gone on sale around Europe at a series of midnight shop openings. In the UK, the patient gamers who had waited up to 36 hours at one particular store in London got much more than they bargained for.

As Thursday crossed into Friday, 17-year-old Ritatsu Thomas and the 100 other PlayStation fans crammed into the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street were jubilant.

And not just because they were the first gamers in the UK to get their hands on Sony's long-awaited games console.

Nor was it due to the fact they had been fuelled on free coffee and Coke for the last 24 hours.

Seriously, why all the rush to get a game console? People can get this item a day or two later.
Nema, USA

They had just been told they had been rewarded for their patience and loyalty with a free 2,500 high-definition TV on which to play their shiny new console.

At first the crowd did not respond to the giveaway. Their senses dulled by the long wait, and the fact most of them had been made to stand in a darkened corner of the shop for about two hours, meant it took a few seconds before they realised they were each walking away with a free television.

"It's unbelievable. It's like a dream come true," said 28-year-old Tim Taylor, from east London.

Ritatsu Thomas, PS3 gamer
The first in the queue had plenty of attention

"How much is this costing Sony?" he asked.

The answer was about 250,000 and that did not include the free taxi ride home each and every person was receiving.

It was a great publicity stunt by Sony and exceedingly generous for a firm reported to be losing up to $300 on every PlayStation 3 sold.

Sony said it wanted to thank its customers and in many ways European PlayStation fans deserved that thanks.

All too often they have been left at the end of the queue when waiting for Sony products. But the PlayStation had finally arrived and, on cue, the fans were excited.

"I am going to have to shuffle my furniture. I might have to get rid of my sofa to fit the television in," said Mr Taylor.

An hour before the launch Ritatsu Thomas, standing at the head of the queue, had said he was looking forward to going home and sleeping.

But soon after learning he was going home with a PS3 and a television he had lost his tiredness.

"I can't wait to go home and start playing," he said.

He had only queued after missing out on a Nintendo Wii last year on launch day and looked shell-shocked at the level of attention.

Gamers hugged themselves and each other as the news filtered through to their sleep-deprived brains that they were getting a television. Soon many were on the phones to friends and family.

I'm ecstatic. Sony we love you
Gamer Miles Frost

Miles Frost, from Chelsea, in west London, rang his brother, who had decided at the last minute not to queue.

"We are all getting a free HD TV," he said down the phone. "On mum's life, I swear it's true."

"I'm ecstatic. Sony we love you."

Before the announcement the launch had been in danger of being a little flat.

The queue of gamers seemed small compared to previous launches of consoles and there appeared to be more press, guests and staff than consumers.

Ray Maguire, head of PlayStation in the UK, said he was "delighted" with the response.

"We have got plenty of stock in shops, so people know they don't have to rush out to secure a console," he said.

Sony hopes to see PS3s flying off the shelves

Sony is also hoping that the plentiful supply of consoles on launch day and beyond will help stop people selling on their machines online at inflated prices.

Oxford Street has seen its fair share of console launches in the last five years and typically they follow a pre-ordained pattern - fans queue up in the cold, laser lights and spotlights criss-cross the sky, a highly-paid celebrity starts the sales and a few hundred gamers troop onto the shop floor.

But this time there was no celebrity-injected glamour or son et lumiere.

Sony said it wanted it this way. "It's all about the consumers," a spokesman told me.

After delays, stock shortages and reports of stabbings and shootings at the US launch of the PS3, everyone seemed delighted that the console was finally on sale.

Sony still needs to convince the mass market that the PS3 is the console of choice.

And it cannot give away a free HDTV as an incentive to everyone who buys the console.

But for the London gamers, at least, PlayStation 3 was the only console they would be playing for quite some time.

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