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GAME opens doors early for PS3 launch

Hours after the official launch of PlayStation 3 at Virgin Megastore, the Oxford Street branch of GAME opened its doors early to welcome customers in.

Hours after the official launch of PlayStation 3 at Virgin Megastore, the Oxford Street branch of GAME opened its doors early to welcome customers in.

The queue had begun to form at 2am, according to a GAME representative, and the event kicked off five hours later when the first of around 150 specially invited gamers - most of them subscribers to the retailer's loyalty scheme - began filing in to the store.

Inside those lining up were entertained by three models in tennis whites, who obligingly lifted up their skirts to display Virtua Tennis-branded knickers and pay homage to the famous Athena poster. On the pavement outside, someone in a Sonic the Hedgehog costume tried to cheer up those waiting in the early morning drizzle.

The early risers were rewarded for turning out with a goodie bag containing Sony and SEGA merchandise, including a t-shirt and yo-yo, plus bacon sandwiches and coffee.

"The response has been fantastic. It's been bigger than we expected, actually," said Mike Barnes, the store's general manager.

But there was no denying the line was shorter than for rival console launches - so what was the explanation? "You've got to remember it's a different time of year. The Wii and the 360 were both out at Christmas, so there was a fever - gamers had to have that console," said Barnes.

"This is different; it's gamers really wanting the next-generation out there. Although there is a slight fever out there, it's not the same kind of feeling... But PS3 is the true next-generation console."

However, that wasn't why 49 year-old Mr Deacon from Plumstead was waiting in the queue - he was just after a PS3 for his 8 year-old son. An expensive toy for one so young? "It is, yeah, but he likes them."

Deacon junior had requested Resistance: Fall of Man to go with his new console. His father said he knew the game was a shooter - it has a 15 rating - but when asked if he minded his son playing such a violent game he replied, "Not really, no."

Further down the line was 27 year-old Jim Ashley, who said he's "pretty much bought every console there's been". On the subject of games, Ashley said, "I'm just buying Motorstorm today. I'm looking forward to LittleBigPlanet, Heavenly Sword and Metal Gear Solid 4.

"If you look at the PS2's history, or any console, there's always a slow start and then things pick up," he added.

Also at the event was GAME's head of marketing, Anna Marcario. She conceded, "The PS3 price point is perhaps a little bit difficult for people to understand at the beginning; it is more expensive than an Xbox 360. But then when you understand what it can do, as well as it being the most powerful games machine on the planet, I think that will enhance it."

According to Marcario, it will be hard to tell who's winning the next-gen console war until much later down the line. "The next couple of weeks will be interesting, then we'll go into summer which is a bit quieter. I think the truth of the matter will come out over Christmas, to be fair - until then we don't know."

But as far as GAME is concerned, "It doesn't really matter who's in the lead, because we try to give something to everyone, so we'll always support all three. We're not going to dictate what customers can or can't have, we just have to work on what people want and give to that demand. We're still selling GameCubes - so people can get what they want from us," Marcario concluded.

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Ellie Gibson

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Ellie spent nearly a decade working at Eurogamer, specialising in hard-hitting executive interviews and nob jokes. These days she does a comedy show and podcast. She pops back now and again to write the odd article and steal our biscuits.

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