The PS3 launch a cakewalk? Far from it. We don’t usually let readers take the reins (fearing y’all would rub us out of a job), but Tokyo-based reader Dirk Benedict sent us this doozy of an email, complete with first hand reporting, a pic and video. His observations struck a cord with me: Things that I saw at launch, which at the time seemed small, but in hindsight, really, weren’t. Hit the jump for video of the PS3 chaos and Dirk’s email in full:
At the worldwide sales debut of PlayStation 3, Sony’s newest console attracted dozens of media outlets and thousands of people willing to camp outside overnight for a chance to score the 60,000 yen game system.
Minutes before the clock struck 7:00 A.M. and Sony’s new PlayStation 3 console would officially go on sale, a company representative addressed the crowd of media and the new face of early bird game console buyers - Chinese nationals.
“Everybody, the PlayStation 3 is the door to a new world of interactive entertainment,” the spunky Japanese rep trumpeted as SCE CEO Ken Kutaragi joined her on stage.
Unfortunately for her and the rest of the Sony entourage, the men and women standing patiently in the front of the line either didn’t understand what she was saying, or didn’t care - the first buyers of PS3 were largely elderly Chinese men and young Chinese women with shaky Japanese language skills.
This became readily apparent when Kutaragi welcomed the first official PS3 owner on stage for an on-spot interview. A 26-year-old Chinese man politely stood on stage while the organizers earnestly tried to squeeze some information him.
Questions like “When did you start lining up?” and “What games will you buy?” were left unanswered as the young man shook his head, refusing (or unable) to respond. The Japanese media would later catch up with him, confirming suspicions that the first PS3 buyer didn’t understand Japanese. An eyewitness claimed the young man didn’t purchase a single game for his brand-new PS3.
This is the true face of the PlayStation 3 debut in Japan. Hardcore gamers are not here waiting in line overnight, buying a first-run PS3, and running home to play some good old next-gen gaming. Rather, opportunistic Japanese businessmen have the largest presence, hiring poor Chinese men and women to wait in line for a PS3, one which will later be sold on web auctions to wealthy gamers around the world for exorbitant amounts of money.
Some waited patiently for the clock to strike 7 A.M., others pushed.
Around the corner of Bic Camera, the line continued on and was partitioned by a television news van. With one hour left of waiting, this became a troublesome spot for Bic Camera employees who tried to calm a crowd of increasingly agitated people, upset over the lack of organization, cramped spaces, and increasing number of people cutting in line. Soon pushing ensued, men began yelling at one another, and some women began crying for help.
Without the presence of Tokyo police officers, the Bic Camera employees were temporarily able to bring order to the line, most armed with their weapon of choice - ear-splitting megaphones.
The levy broke soon afterwards, as a truck attempted to pass through the narrow street, forcing the organizers to push back to the line closer towards the wall. Or in other words, squeezing together a line of people already packed like sardines.
The pressure was too much as the line busted open and more pushing ensued (which broke out in front of the waiting truck), causing those waiting in back to push forward, inching themselves closer to the finish line with a prideful Kutaragi waiting.
One man truly leveled-up - the chaos allowed him to push forward from roughly 200th in place all the way up to 20th in line.
The Tokyo police would eventually arrive just prior to 7 A.M. - fifty minutes after the pushing first took place.
A gruff-looking Bic Camera manager was the first to realize the problem - nobody in line understood the directions his employees were screaming. He quickly grabbed one of his Chinese-speaking employees, put him on top of a ladder, handed him a megaphone, and instructed the young man to address the crowd in Chinese.
CLOCK STRIKES SEVEN
To the relief of everyone, the final countdown took place at 6:59 A.M. as Kutaragi made a quick speech and officially kicked off the retail debut of PlayStation 3.
But what took place at the cash registers moments later would put a big, fat exclamation point on what can only be described as a failure of a hardware launch.
“Thank you for your patience!,” welcomed the cashier to the first PS3 buyers. “What game software would you like with your purchase?”
“Hai,” the consumer nodded, not understanding the question.
Most cashiers soon figured out that the men and women standing in front of them didn’t speak Japanese. Some would then repeat the same question in English, and would all get the say reply, “Only hardware.”
Based on my observations of the first twenty PS3s sold at Bic Camera, they were all purchased by Chinese nationals, none of whom bought any software. After making their purchase, television crews asked for interviews but all were declined. These temporary owners of PS3s would then make their way down the street where their bosses waited. After several minutes, a dozen PS3s were rounded up, as their Japanese business manager paid out cash to those who waited in line for them. I witnessed a homeless-looking Chinese man, in his sixties or seventies get paid 20,000 yen for his services and was then sent away.
The sales spree continued back over at the registers, and not everything was running smoothly. One elderly Chinese man, next in line to buy a PS3, was in a state of panic. He explained to a Bic Camera employee that his “friend” has his money, but that he is further back in the line. After further investigation, these poor Chinese are not given the 60,000 yen to purchase the PS3 until minutes before their reach the registers, perhaps out of fear that some will run off with the money. The Bic Camera employee assisted the elderly gentlemen, escorting him back to the cash registered after he received the cash from his good “friend.”
The transactions continued, tired-looking Chinese carried away their newly purchased PS3s, and avoided eye contact with journalists asking for interviews. All but one young man - a Chinese exchange student studying in Japan. He was willing to go on camera and was excited to talk about his new purchase.
The television reporter started off with a few questions that the young man didn’t understand, so she stuck to simple questions: “Why is PS3 good?”
“It’s interesting,” the young student said with a grin.
“What game will you play on your PS3?” she asked.
“The tennis game,” he replied. Among the four software titles that launched with the PS3 in Japan, there was only one sports title - Sega’s golf game. The student was perhaps referring to the recently released “Minna no Tennis” on PlayStation 2. Either way, it was obvious he was no gamer.
The young man would later head over to Yurakucho Station, where he added his purchased PS3 to a collection of consoles bought by his friends, which no doubt will be sold online in an auction later today.
TIME FOR CHANGE
Today I witnessed the most disturbing side of the video game industry in my three decades of game fandom. It’s not the Chinese that I’m upset about. Who can blame them? If you’re poor and without a good job in Japan, 20,000 yen to wait in line isn’t a bad deal. And for ambitious people like the Chinese students I encountered who scored five PS3s, this hardware launch could net them thousands of dollars in profit through online auditioning - that’s more money for them to spend on tuition. These are the lucky Chinese kids in Japan, getting an education, and trying to get ahead in life. If these kids are good students, who’s to say that they should be playing PS3 instead of using the console to afford more education?
But this story isn’t about the hardships of Chinese in Japan. It’s about how poorly run hardware launches are done in Japan and why they should change.
Sixty seconds before Kutaragi kicked off the launch, rain started to fall on hundreds of people in line, many without umbrellas. People were pushed and yelled at by out-of-control campers without the presence of a single police officer (even though a police box was located one block away), and hundreds more are still waiting outside as I write this, with the rain pouring down. Meanwhile, true Japanese gamers are waiting. Based on the record-breaking attendence of this year’s Tokyo Game Show, there are tens of thousands of Japanese interested in playing (not selling) PlayStation 3. They are waiting for their chance to play Ridge Racer 7 or Genji II (or maybe not), but still the interest is there. And should they line up again when the next shipments of PS3s come in? Hell no. As evidenced by the ongoing DS Lite storages in Japan, patient Chinese and their crooked Japanese bosses will be there too, waiting.
This is the true story of the PlayStation 3 debut in Japan. This is the kind of expose that Japanese media are prevented to run because of their nationalism and close ties with big business. While it’s honorable to not smear their own countrymen (Sony) for their botched launch, the truth must be told.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN
Sony should be scolded for staging a national launch event with 80,000 units. An extreme lack of supply ignited an extreme surge of demand - that of which poor Chinese and opportunistic Japanese took full advantage of today.
If Sony and major retailers like Bic Camera or Yodobashi Camera are going to participate in launch day festivities like today, police need to be present.
If measures aren’t taken to try and curb rampant scalping of hardware through online auctions, then retailers must address their customers - Mandarin-speaking Chinese. Don’t bother having your employees shout into megaphones all morning long - nobody understands a word they are saying.
As a fellow foreigner studying in Japan, I can tell you the hardships that many of us face everyday. The intent of this story is not to point fingers at hard-working Chinese nationals. Rather, I think this subject needs to be brought to light. This is the truth that no Japanese media wants to touch.
Originally from: http://www.kotaku.com/gaming/top/foreigner…side-214130.php