High above 4th street, outside San Francisco’s Sony Metreon entertainment complex, large luminescent numbers count down towards midnight–4:48:36…4:48:35…4:48:34…But it’s not New Year’s Eve, so what’s up? Well, if you’re a gamer, you should already know. Hell, even if the last game you played was [i]Pong[/i], you should still know. You see, in just four hours, forty-seven minutes, and thirty-one seconds, Sony, undisputed videogame behemoth that it is, will finally release its much-hyped, much-anticipated handheld gaming system, the PSP (PlayStation Portable). Of course referring to this sleek piece of gaming goodness as merely a “handheld gaming system” is selling it way short, as the PSP not only plays videogames (on a technological par with PS2 titles), it also plays UMD movies, mp3s, and is Wi-Fi enabled. Run for cover Nintendo DS! Watch your back iPOD! Sony is diving into this profitable market head first, and they’re definitely taking names.
The counter now reads 4:35:35 and it’s starting to drizzle a bit on this brisk NorCal evening. The sudden change in weather, however, seems to go relatively unnoticed by the hundreds of onlookers waiting in line. Their focus is on the countdown clock, not so much with an interest in the large descending numbers, but with the 3D, billboard-sized PSP replica that is displaying the timer while simultaneously airing a seemingly endless loop of PSP game clips. Make no mistake, these fans (myself included) are well aware of the time. In just four hours, thirty minutes, and twenty seconds we’ll be able to get our greedy gaming hands on a slice of videogame heaven.
Why wait in this craziness for something that I could probably get tomorrow morning when Best Buy opens its doors at 8am? Well, to put it simply: I love the hype! Anticipation can be far more intoxicating than the payoff itself. Besides, will Best Buy, or any other PSP-carrying retailer be host to nearly five hundred enthusiastic hardcore gamers? Will other retailers toss PSP hats and T-shirts at rabid swag fiends? Will the other retailers offer a block party-like atmosphere complete with pumping music, event lights, and free food and drink? Oh, and did I mention the lovely Sony PSP demonstration models traveling up and down the sidewalk, offering lucky line squatters the chance to sample some PSP gaming sweetness? Sony certainly knows a thing or two about launching a product while simultaneously catering to their loyal fans.
4:25:12. The air is cold, the concrete hard, and the line long, but as I sit here tapping away at my laptop (protected from the rain by a makeshift tarp), the folks surrounding me seem oblivious to the unfavorable conditions. They’re chowing on complimentary burgers and hot dogs, distributed by smiling Sony reps, surfing the Internet on their own laptops supported by Sony Metreon’s free Wi-Fi connection, watching DVDs on portable players, and generally having a great time. I even spy a few people quietly satisfying their handheld hunger with the Nintendo DS. Better not engage (no pun intended, Nokia fans) in a ‘DS vs. PSP’ debate among this crowd of hardcore Sony supporters, not unless you’re willing to risk a stylus through the heart.
Well, the rapidly blinking ‘low battery’ icon on my laptop is strongly suggesting I wrap this up. Besides, I better get comfy and pull my freebie PSP beanie over my chilly ears as four long hours stand between me and my PSP. In addition to this ultimate reward, the coming hours will also bring sleepiness, sore muscles, a $250 hole in my wallet, and a reprimand from my boss when I call in sick tomorrow morning…but I wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, I can’t wait to do it all over again when Sony launches the PS3.
Be sure to stick with MyGamer as it keeps it’s finger on the pulse of all things PSP.