Retailers are expecting a "huge" launch for the PlayStation 3 next week, as Sony's latest home console finally reaches Europe.
Aside from the official launch at Virgin Megastores' flagship Oxford Street branch, entertainment, specialist and independent stores across the UK are opening at midnight to fulfil pre-orders and sell consoles to punters eager to get their hands on the next-gen Sony machine.
"The launch of the PS3 is going to be huge," commented Jorden Jones, product manager at specialist chain Gamestation - which will be opening over 200 stores at midnight on March 22.
"We are very excited and have been working alongside Sony to create specially modified PS3 concept bays in some of our stores. By opening at midnight our customers can collect and play on their pre-ordered consoles as soon as possible," he said.
"After nearly twenty years in the business I've never known such charged anticipation for a console launch - it's getting a little crazy and we're still over a week away," said Steve O'Brien, veteran independent retailer.
While detractors are citing the fact that consumers are still able to take pre-orders this close to the consoles' release as evidence of a lack of interest, retail sees it as one of the first times they'll be able to actually sell hardware to punters who haven't pre-ordered on launch day.
"The doom-mongers can say what they like about stock, the units I've seen Sony ship out shows that it's pulled an absolute coup in terms of supply," commented Don McCabe, MD of Chips.
"Where pre-orders are concerned we'll fulfil them all, and we'll have some units to sell to customers on day one, which is great," he added.
"Interest in PS3 is building the closer we get to launch. Much of our stock is accounted for via pre-orders, which may mean that some of our stores can actually look forward to selling some live stock for a change," agreed Tim Ellis of HMV, currently planning around 50 midnight openings.
In the eyes of the retail community, Sony has not only done a great job in supplying PlayStation 3 units for sale, but also in helping to market the product in store and wow customers unfamiliar with the new console.
"We've been lucky enough to have a store large enough to give home to Sony furniture and that in itself is quite a piece of kit," commented O'Brien.
"We've had it a little over 24 hours now and we quite literally have to kick customers out the door come closing. I don't think your average gamer was quite prepared for how big a leap in quality the PS3 offers," he said.
The PlayStation 3 launches in Europe March 23, priced GBP 425 / EUR 599.