Midnight in the Garden of PS3

Camping out at Best Buy with gamers -- and entrepreneurs

And why not make money? A 20-gig PS3 system retails for $499; the 60-gig goes for $599. Ali Croft, spokesperson for eBay, says that as of mid-afternoon of the opening day, 792 PS3s had sold for an average $2,700 apiece. Clayton Coward, a manager at the Sugar Land Gamestop, says a "good number" of people who came in and bought his PS3s happily told him they were going straight to eBay. "And with the profit they're making," he says, "I can't really blame them."

It's been a tense few seconds, as Jose shoves his hand down his "secret pocket." His face has gone from quizzical to panicked. Finally, he lights up, and pulls a wad of hundred dollar bills from the side of his jacket. The TV and newspaper cameras fix on him as the cheery cashier gives him his total: "Six-forty-nine, forty-nine, baby," she says. He peers at the "$649.49" on the register screen and doles out the Benjamins -- one, two, three -- six total, plus some twenties for tax.

Sony fans (and entrepreneurs) created a sort of gaming shantytown outside the Galleria Best Buy.
Steven Devadanam
Sony fans (and entrepreneurs) created a sort of gaming shantytown outside the Galleria Best Buy.
Jose, the first dude in line, has made it. But where's the $650?
Steven Devadanam
Jose, the first dude in line, has made it. But where's the $650?

"You're supposed to be happy," she says.

"Yeah," he mumbles, exhausted.

Meanwhile, as they lead shoppers past displays of pricey component cables, extra controllers and games, the Best Buy staffers are getting miffed. No one's picking them up. That only means one thing: "They're gonna sell 'em on eBay," says a customer service rep, who asks not to be named. To him and his coworkers, this breaks the gaming principle. "Man, what about the people who're waiting in line outside and who want to buy the system and play it? They don't get to, but these people get to go home and sell 'em on eBay? Ain't right." None of the shoppers at the checkout stands are willing to comment as to whether or not they're keeping or selling their units, but it's pretty obvious. "That's cool," says the rep, "they got a surprise coming."

He's referring to news that eBay and Sony inked a deal saying that no PS3s can be sold on eBay. But so far that's been nothing but a rumor. eBay's Croft says that there are certain restrictions in place: People can't list PS3s if they don't have them (this apparently was epidemic when the Xbox 360 was released). They must include a photo of the receipt, accept Paypal, have a 98 percent feedback rating and sell only one console per account. But other than that, they can sell away, and that's what Lyndon Hughes, a 22-year-old UH student who's been standing in line for 31 hours here at Best Buy, is planning to do. "I've been checking the prices on eBay, and I'm sure I can get a really good price," he says. "I'm pretty excited about the European market," he adds, sounding like a day trader. "I'm planning to sell it for at least $1,800 over there."

Jose slowly walks past the registers towards the door. He does the Best Buy ritual at the door, getting his receipt checked by a staffer, and walks out, his eyes again barely open. As he emerges, he's again mobbed by TV cameras, and his fellow line mates outside cheer him on and regard him in awe. "The dude's like a star, man," says one guy, eyeing the TV cameras.

Jose barely notices. "Yeah man, I'm gonna come back Saturday and buy Resistance," he says of his favorite PlayStation game. "But right now, dude, I'm gonna go home and go to sleep."

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