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PlayStation 3 Launch: Madness and Shooting

Sony’s next-generation PlayStation 3 video game console officially goes on sale in North America today, and the debut has unleashed a frenzy of demand amongst gamers and shoppers vying to set hands on one of the systems: vying, and possibly dying to get one, as a man was shot waiting in line for a PlayStation 3 console outside a Wal-Mart store in Putnum, Connecticut.

According to reports, the man was one of 15 to 20 people lined up outside the Wal-Mart store overnight, waiting to be first through the doors when the store opened. Shortly after 3 A.M., two armed men approached the group and demanded money; according to police, the victim confronted the suspects and was shot. He was treated at the scene then transported to the nearby University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Police continue to search for the suspects.

In other incidents, a man was injured in Wisconsin when gamers rushed the shelves carrying the consoles, and a rowdy crowd led authorities to shut down a Wal-Mart in California. Yesterday, three people waiting for a PlayStation 3 outside a Best Buy in Lexington, Kentucky, were hit with BB pellets, as was a reporter interviewing the buyers.

Elsewhere across the U.S. and Canada, gamers lines up by the thousands outside retailers, hoping to be among the first—and lucky—to purchase the new video game console. However, even some early risers may be disappointed: Sony ha had difficulty ramping up production consoles owing to shortage of the blue laser diodes used in the integrated Blu-ray drive. PlayStation 3 supplies are expected to be constrained through early 2007, meaning some holiday shoppers are sure to be disappointed. Sony says about 400,000 systems will be available for the nationwide launch; in order to help meet that goal, Sony cut the PlayStation 3’s Japanese launch back to 100,000 earlier this week.

In case you hadn’t heard what the fuss is about, the PlayStation 3 is Sony’s next iteration of its market-leading video game console. The system features 256 MB of system memory, 256 MB of video RAM, and is powered by a high-speed Cell processor which excels at the sort of floating point operations new game titles will require. The system comes with onboard gigabit Ethernet, four USB 2.0 ports, wireless Bluetooth game controllers, support for video output resolutions from 480i to 1080p via analog or HDMI, and—of course—sports Sony’s next-generation Blu-ray DVD drive. A $499 unit offers a 20 MB hard drive, while a $599 model offers Wi-Fi networking, Memory Stick/SD/Compact Flash support. Gamers and movie enthusiasts who want the full 1080p HD experience will also need Sony’s PlayStation 3 HDMI 1.3 cable, which should be available shortly for a mere $60.

Recent estimates have Sony selling the PlayStation 3 at a substantial loss, with some reports (including one from market analysis firm iSuppli) putting Sony’s loss on the basic PlayStation 3 at nearly $300 per console, and over $240 for the high-end $599 console.

If you’re thinking you might be able to find your holiday PlayStation 3 fix on eBay, consider that the online auction house has now put limits on PlayStation 3 sales; only sellers who have at least 50 previous customers and feedback ratings of 98 out of 100 can list PS3 systems before midnight tonight. Each vendor can only offer one PS3 per account, and the listing must include a photo of a pre-order receipt. And, since pre-orders for PlayStation 3 consoles became available, auction prices for the new systems have frequently floated above $2,000.

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