PS3 Goes on Sale, but Supply, Tempers Run Short

A lot of people would probably say that Jacob Beilin is out of his mind. Beilin, a 20-year-old college student, skipped classes to camp outside a Best Buy store in New York City for his shot at the much-hyped next-generation PlayStation 3 video game console.

"They think I'm crazy," said Beilin, referring to his family. "What can I say? But I got two friends here with me, so we're all crazy, I guess."

If Beilin is crazy, then the illness is spreading. All over the country, gamers, parents, grandparents and at least a few opportunists snaked around the block to get their hands on the first Playstation 3s as stores began to sell them Friday.

Supplies ran short, and tempers did too. There were even some reports of criminals preying on waiting buyers.

In Putnam, Conn., police said two armed thugs tried to rob a line of people waiting for the PS3 early Friday -- and shot one man who refused to give up his money.

About 30 miles away in Manchester, Conn., another shopper was beaten and robbed of his new PlayStation 3 just minutes after he bought it, police said.

Most lines were reportedly peaceful. But many would-be buyers came away empty-handed.

Retailers, such as the video game megachain Gamestop, which also owns EB Games, announced they could meet only 60 percent of the preorders they've already sold.

But Gamestop isn't the only retailer experiencing shortages that hint that Sony was perhaps not completely honest about PlayStation 3 supply shortfalls, beyond what the company has said publicly. Though Sony was expected to ship only about 400,000 units in the first place, red flags have begun to pop up all over the place.

"We're barely going to have enough to cover presales and will not have any available for walk-in customers," said Kathleen Waugh, a spokeswoman for Toys "R" Us.

Shortages of video game consoles are nothing new; they are usually expected when a new system is released.

Just last year, when Microsoft's Xbox 360 launched, there were rampant reports of nationwide shortages, and those shortages coupled with extremely high demand helped make the Xbox 360 the must-have gift of the season for anyone who could find it.

"The console release cycle is unlike almost anything else in the consumer technology biz," said Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for the NPD Group. "These products undergo a major revision once every five years or so, and the PlayStation has been the market leader for the previous couple of generations. So there are high expectations about what Sony is going to deliver."

It's hard to argue that gamers are not a hardcore bunch. But don't be fooled by the tents and sleeping bags lined up outside your local electronics store. Not all are camped out for a love of gaming. Some are in it for the money.

"Buy and sell. Gotta make the money to pay for some other stuff," said Greg White, one of about 25 people in line at a Best Buy in Brooklyn, Ohio.

Like some of the others in line with him and countless more across the country, White isn't interested in the latest games or cutting-edge graphics. He's more excited about the thousands he expects to get from selling the PS3 on eBay.

Some people weren't even trying to get a PlayStation 3 but knew the value of a space in line close to a store's front doors.

At a Circuit City in Schaumberg, Ind., Eric Arana and his wife offered to sell their spot for $2,000. They were number 43 in line.

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