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Wii Launch: The Waiting Game

Mon 20 Nov 2006 2:40pm GMT / 9:40am EST / 6:40am PST

Following high profile events in New York and LA, GI.biz takes a look at the Wii launch elsewhere in the US.

Midnight marked the pre-Sunday launch of the Wii in North America. While Reggie Fils-Aime handed out the very first Wii unit in New York, the rest of the country was playing a waiting game.

At a Wal-Mart just north of Austin, Texas, there were two dozen people waiting to pick up one of the store's 20 allocated units. The previously stocked shelves were emptied with the games and controllers piled in the back of the store, behind the registers.

There were two types of people waiting. Of course, there were the Nintendo fans - one even wore a full-size tail coming from under his jacket, a la Star Fox. The fan boys exchanged information, claiming that "30,000 defective PS3s" had been sold already.

The other contingent was the soccer moms; some sunburned and windswept from waiting for several days outside, and some accompanied by their children.

One mother boasted that she didn't plan to sell the console she bought, unlike so many of those who picked up a PlayStation 3. But several children from her family had a ticket and were purchasing a unit, oddly.

Another mother walked off to talk to a man who had joined the end of the queue just moments before. She quietly offered to sell him a Wii - and later, in the parking lot, struck up deals with two other buyers.

As she drove away, she rolled down the window to call out to a shopper who was walking away empty handed - "Wanna buy a Wii?". The asking price was US $370 - almost a third above the official price point of US $249.99.

Following Wal-Martās limited midnight launch, the majority of consumers picked up their Wii consoles on Sunday morning. Target opened at 8am, with 60 systems. First in line - and there since 2.30pm on Saturday - was lifelong Nintendo fan William. "I didnāt even bother with the PS3,ā he commented, adding that the situation as "too crazy for me to ever try".

How convinced was William that it would be worth the wait? "I am fairly positive it will be. Iām almost sure it will be. I canāt imagine this being disappointing," he said.

Standing at the end of the line, and trying in vain to sell his ticket to passers-by, was Andrew. He was one of those who took part in Friday's drive-by water balloon assault on people queueing for a PlayStation 3; the group hit five stores in total.

One hour after Target sold out of its supply of Wii units, Best Buy opened its doors, offering 63 consoles. At the front of the line was Stevie Ray, who waited in line for 30 hours.

According to Stevie Ray's father, "The real story is he tried to get the PS3 and failed by one."

His son chimed in, "I think the PlayStation 3 sort of overshadowed the Wii, so not many people knew about the Wii coming out."

Across the street, three people were waiting outside Toys R Us - despite a sign which read, 'SORRY, NO WIIS AVAILABLE'.

Back at Best Buy, the general manager opened the store's doors with a theatrical flourish, asking the crowd if they were ready for the Wii. Employees cheered the customers on, and there was applause and high-fives.

As one Wii buyer passed through checkout, a sales clerk warned, "When you get to the parking lot, hold onto this..."

Meanwhile, Stevie Ray was also on his way home, carrying two large bags. His father said that he'd picked up every single extra available, explaining that if his son waited for 30 hours to buy a console with his own money, the least a parent could do was to pay for the accessories. The total bill? Just a touch over US $1200.

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