Sony's Blu-ray-backed PlayStation 3 next-gen game console finally hit stores nationwide today amid a buying frenzy unrivaled in the history of consumer electronics, athough whether it will be Blu-ray's golden goose remains a question mark.
More akin to the opening of a 'Star Wars' movie than a game console launch, retailers across the country arranged midnight openings early Friday to accommodate consumers who had already been lining up for hours -- sometimes days -- in anticipation of shelling out up to $600 to purchase a PS3.
Unfortunately, extremely tight supplies will likely leave the majority of customers empty handed. Sony recently announced that it was more than halving PS3 launch day shipments, which now number only a slim 400,000 in the U.S., with another 1,000,000 expected by the year's end. Worldwide, it is expecting 2 million this year, half its original projections. The company has already delayed the European launch until March.
Still, that hasn't deterred PS3-hungry consumers stateside, many whom have been braving freezing temperatures in northern states just for a shot at buying the console. Online sales are also soaring to outrageous prices, with recent sellers on eBay getting bids of upwards of $7,000. Tickle Me Elmo, move over.
Of course, one question that remains is just what are the fans lining up for. The PlayStation 3 is first and foremost a game machine, and that is certainly its primary appeal. Yet Sony and the rest of the industry's Blu-ray backers are heavily counting on the PS3 to drive consumer acceptance of the high-def format. And with sales of flat-panel HDTVs soaring, the timing may be perfect for the PS3 to converge with the public's growing appetite for high-def. Of course, anyone remember the MiniDisc?
While the hysteria surrounding the PS3 launch would certainly seem like good news for Blu-ray's future, it is far too early to predict how the next-gen DVD wars will eventually play out. Pretty much the only thing we can be sure of is that a long and arduous process for the PS3 and Blu-ray is just beginning. There will certainly be many more months of intense press coverage to come, as the game console comparison reviews pour in and fan reaction remains fervent on all sides.
We are, of course, happy to join in the fray. We've gotten our hands on both a PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's HD DVD add-on drive for the Xbox 360, and we'll be offering up our own comparison face-off next week. So stay tuned -- the fun is just beginning.