Sunday, November 12, 2006

Game on: Sony’'s new PlayStation is snapped up by black marketeers as it finally hits streets in Japan @ TimesOnline

BY THE time his moment of joy arrives, Taiga Ishikawa will have been roughing it for 28 hours, but no one could be better equipped for a night on the streets of Tokyo.

He has his red cotton slippers and bamboo sleeping mat. He has 30 comic books to read and a supply of cold coffee and cold noodle sandwiches. Mr Ishikawa is a 20-year-old computer game otaku — a Japanese nerd — and in just a few hours his vigil will be rewarded with a jewel beyond price.

At 7am today, the shutters of Asobit City game shop in the Akihabara district of Tokyo will open, and Mr Ishikawa will be at the front of the queue to become one of the first people to own the Sony PlayStation 3. The PS3 is the newest games console in the world, and an immeasurable amount of money and credibility rests on its launch.

For Sony, this is an opportunity for success after a dismal spell. For gamers like Mr Ishikawa it is the most powerful games system in the world, quite apart from its capabilities as a storage system for photographs, music and a player of new-generation Blu-ray DVDs.

Even before it went on sale, a thriving black market had sprung up around the PlayStation 3, on the internet and on the streets of Akihabara. The console for which Mr Ishikawa will pay 59,980 yen (£267) was last night attracting bids of up to $1,800 (£940) on online auction sites.

In Akihabara a dozen homeless men queued incongruously in front of a game shop to buy the console. Each was being hired by a middleman to circumvent the shop’s “one customer, one PlayStation rule” to ensure the biggest number of consoles for immediate resale.

Seven British students from Bournemouth University, who had paid £700 each for a week-long stay in Japan, were debating whether to buy the PS3 and keep it for themselves, or sell it at a handsome profit. “I played a display model in a branch of Starbucks on the other side of Tokyo last night,” Christopher Poole, 19, a student of television production, said. “It’s true that they’ve only got the first generation of games at the moment, but it was a bit disappointing.”

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