Xbox 360 Launch Day - A Report from the FieldBy: Jared Black
I'm not a man to take chances, so I pre-ordered my Xbox 360 Premium system from a local EB way back in May. Going in to tonight I knew the line wouldn't be terribly long due to the shortages, so I wasn't in a hurry to go stand out in the cold and rain even though every fiber of my being was pushing me towards the EB.
When I finally arrived at 11:40, there were already about 10 people in line. Naturally it was dominated by males, with only three females (two moms and a female gamer and/or girlfriend) waiting. It was a pretty quiet line overall; people were mostly just talking about which game they'd play first or reminiscing about past launch experiences. A couple more people arrived after me, and we had a good discussion about the merits of many of the launch titles. Only one person was playing a portable system, in this case a PSP with Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, and he naturally drew a considerable amount of attention.
Shortly after I arrived, a couple of guys walked up and casually asked me (since I was at the end of the line) if a big game was launching today or if everyone was just hanging out in front of EB. Thinking they were joking, I said "yeah, I think it's something for Game Boy...". The guy just kinda gave me a blank stare, and then said "Which game?". Eventually I figured out that they legitimately didn't know that the Xbox 360 was releasing, and we had a good laugh about it after the fact. However, it was a big reminder that not everyone's as much of a geek as I am (as is typing up this report), and a sign that Microsoft might not have done enough promotion for this thing after all. These guys were definitely gamers (they debated waiting in line and hoping to land one), yet they had no clue that the first console in the next-gen wars was being released today.
A few minutes before midnight, an employee allowed the ladies there to go inside and wait. Finally, midnight arrived and the EB employees let us poor males go inside in two separate groups. Naturally I was part of the second group, so I had to longingly stare through the window as the first group gleefully picked up their systems and games. Finally we got the call, and the rest was the pretty standard process of picking up the console and leaving. As expected, they had sold out on pre-orders alone with an allocation of 20 Premium systems and 3 Core systems. Several people had returns to make (such as switching wired controllers for wireless - maybe they read our feature), and also purchased extended warranties at $40 a pop (where EB really makes its money). The launch freebies were lame wristbands and a 2K Sports music CD - even the Dreamcast launch came with a free t-shirt!
One final note - the security was very good even in a decent part of town. With a Premium system selling for upwards of $800 on eBay right now, they hadn't taken any chances. The employee manning the door kept it locked at all times, and usually only let people out in waves of several at a time. They also had plenty of lighting outside of the store, and cops rode by while we were waiting outside. Overall, it was clear that they had planned well and it was a pleasant experience as a result.