What does it take to be the first among your gamer friends to get a Sony PlayStation2? A lot of patience, at least a full day off work and a menacing kitchen knife -- or two.
At 2:27 p.m on Wednesday, Nicolé Bibb, 31, of Oakland, was the 22nd person standing in line to buy a PlayStation2 behind the police barricades outside the PlayStation store at the Sony Metreon in San Francisco. They'd go on sale that night at 12:01 a.m. She'd taken the day off work, and been waiting in line since 6 a.m. to buy the console.
With her, she had a 13-year-old niece (who was No. 130 or so in line), a GameBoy, a CD player, a folding chair and two kitchen knives, carefully wrapped in paper towels and stashed in her duffle bag. She'd brought the "weapons," as she calls them, when she came to check out the scene the night before, concerned that she'd have to wait in line all night. "I'm pretty good with a knife," she confides. She ended up going home, catching a few hours of sleep and rising at 5 a.m. to hang out in the intermittent rain and wait and wait and wait.
At last count, by midafternoon Wednesday, there were 280 people waiting with her, mostly looking thoroughly bored, if not actually asleep. Since only 500,000 consoles are available in the U.S. for the launch, the units are sure to sell out soon. It's a shortage that's caused some to speculate about an artificial scarcity masterminded by Sony to pique demand. But to the gamers trying to pass the time -- napping in sleeping bags, playing dominoes, listening to headphones, reading "Lord of the Flies" -- such conspiracy theories were irrelevant: They'd simply do whatever it takes.
Paul Krivda, 23, from San Francisco, was first in line, arriving more than 24 hours in advance -- beginning his vigil outside the PlayStation store at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday. He'd taken a vacation from his job as a lab manager at Lenscrafters, an eyeglass chain, so he'd not only be able to get the console, but to spend 10 hours a day for the next week playing with it. "If I didn't get one today, I'd have to wait four or five months" -- and that, of course, would be unbearable. He added: "Most of my friends would be here if they could. Pretty much everyone I know wants to be here."
Bibb said she's in line because, "it's the game to have." She holds a master's degree in statistics, and when she's not working for Wells Fargo analyzing spending patterns to bust credit fraud, she's teaching statistics at a local community college. "Blowing stuff up, that's how I relax," she says. She plans to stay up all night as soon as she gets her console.
That's what Sony want to hear. The company went out of its way to stoke the gamers' passions, and keep order at the same time. They provided plastic ponchos when it started to rain, handed out boxed lunches to the patient crowd -- turkey or peanut butter and jelly -- and issued 30-minute passes so that gamers could step out of line to hit the latrine without losing their spaces.
The whole operation was so orderly -- so corporate, even -- that when last I saw Bibb at 3:09 p.m. with just under nine hours to go, she'd had no reason to draw her knives.