Tuesday, December 21, 2004

PSP Launch [17th December Issue]

Famitsu covers the PSP launch on the 12th December, reporting on the massive queues seen at Tokyo's major shopping areas. Night-time temperatures of below 5°C (41°F) didn't deter dedicated gamers from lining up to being among the first in the world to own the coveted handheld. Your humble reporter suggests that maybe it wasn't worth the effort to be able to play Everybody's Golf on the train, but each to his own.

The longest queue for each area are noted next to the place names, although the scenes described in the article aren't necessarily the places which had the longest queue figures. Text in square brackets and italics is my comments, the rest is translated from the article. Oh, and I rearranged them in ascending order of queue size, so 300 people is the smallest!

Shibuya (300 people)

[Tokyo's busiest shopping area, the place for young people to go in their free time. This is the area seen in Lost In Translation with the giant screens on the buildings, one of which was displaying a CG dinosaur in the movie.]

Unlike the electronics districts, long queues generally don't form at Shibuya. However, today was different. At 5:30am, there were a hundred people outside Tsutaya [major, country-wide chain of video/DVD/CD/game rental/sales outlets, with the Shibuya branch being one of the biggest], and by 6:50am, there were more than two hundred and fifty. Sony CEO Ken Kutaragi appeared for the countdown event.

Akihabara (660 people)

[Nicknamed Electric Town, you could (and I often did) spend days browsing its many new and second-hand shops, which have everything from the very latest cameras and music players, to rack after rack of old NES and SNES games, many in as-new condition, most selling for less than £5/$8, alhtough some rare/popular ones go for almost as much as games for current consoles.

The best thing about Akihabara is the scale of the place. Most electronics shops have one floor with different sections, or a building with each floor selling different things. Stores in Akihabara span multiple buildings. Yodobashi Camera has eight. Eight! You ask a shop assistant where the digital cameras are, and he directs you No. 6, the camera building. Because you're in No. 2, the TV/video building. Then he gives you a map so you can find it. It's really cool.]

Akihabara, lined with buildings filled with major stores.The first to open was Asobit City Building One. Almost three hundred people queued up, starting in the middle of the night. By 6am, the queue stretched about three hundred metres, reaching Akihabara station. There were many expert queuers among the people at Akihabara, who had brought sleeping bags and other things to keep warm, and various items to keep themselves amused.

Yurakucho (800 people)

[To be honest, I'd never heard of this district until I read this article...]

People started gathering at Bic Camera at 6pm on the 11th, and by 6:30am the next morning, there were more than five hundred in the queue. The numbers increased a lot from the time of the last train at 1am. There were many men in their twenties to forties, and women in their twenties to thirties, probably because of the shop's location in the business area of Yurakucho. [Note that women still in the business world are assumed not to have reached their forties, because most Japanese women marry well before their thirties, and stop working when they do.]

Ikebukuro (1200 people)

Bic Camera Ikebukuro, the Mecca of release-day queues! At 5am there were three hundred people, but by opening time this had increased to twelve hundred! The countdown started at 6:55am, and the store opened with a decorative ball full of streamers being popped. The wave of people seeking PSPs, which didn't thin out for a while after opening, was unforgettable.

And finally (you thought 1200 would be the most?)...

Shinjuku (1500 people)

[Shinjuku is Tokyo's busiest station, with more than two million people passing through it every day. Part of the Beastie Boys' Intergalactic video was filmed in Shinjuku Station and on a Japan Rail train.

Interestingly, if you watch the video you'll notice that no-one in the station or on the train reacts to three foreigners dressed like, and acting like, mental patients in front of a camera crew. But the Boys (as I like to call them) didn't ask permission to film or have the train filled with actors. People are just too polite to react to this kind of thing.]

When we arrived at Yodobashi Camera Shinjuku branch at 2:30am, therewere already more than eight hundred people waiting! Shortly before opening time at 6am, around fifteen hundred people had flooded the area. The manager told us "This is the biggest panic we've been in at this shop in years!"

The man at the front of the line had been there since 11am the previous day. Wearing only a light jacket, he shivered as he waited for the PSP to go on sale. Just before opening time, over a hundred reporters showed up, waiting to capture the moment.

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