Wii are the champions…

This past Sunday was the launch of the new Nintendo Wii and my friend Scott and I planned to go out and wait in line to get one. You can read my description of our experiences by clicking on “more” below.

I had been following developments related to the Wii for months prior to launch. The new motion-sensitive control system and the ability to buy and download old games (from NES, Super Nintendo, N64, Sega Genesis and TurboGrafx 16) to play using the Wii’s Virtual Console feature got me really excited about the system. In the end, I decided not to buy a Wii for myself on launch day and hope that my family comes through with one for me at Christmas.

Anyway, I had never participated in any console’s launch day events, so even though I wasn’t buying one for myself, I planned to go with Scott when he went to get his. Scott and I arranged to try to get to the Target in Watertown at 6am in order to stand in line until the store opened at 8am. He had talked to the manager there a few days earlier and the manager told him that he expected the 69 units that the location had received would be adequate to meet the demand. This made us feel justified in not camping out, but we still weren’t comfortable with just showing up at 8am.

My alarm clock went off at 5:20am and I wondered what on earth had possessed me to get involved in this plan. I took my shower and got dressed. I put on long underwear and dressed in layers – the weather forecast said that it was going to feel like 35 degrees when we got to Target. It’s one thing to be underdressed if you’re outside doing some activity, it’s quite another thing to be underdressed and just standing in a line.

Scott picked me up a little after 6am, after I had made my coffee, and we were on our way. We headed over to the Watertown Mall, which has both a Target and a Best Buy. The line at Best Buy was already really long when we arrived at about 6:15am. The line at Target was shorter but still stretched along the front of the building and around the corner to the side of the building. We got in line and waited. We figured that we’d be OK because the line was very sparsely populated at the front due to the 5 or 6 tents and various lawn chairs near the door. Plus, there were a number of groups in line, who we figured would be only buying one Wii per group.

A little before 7am, some Target employees came out and started handing out vouchers. These vouchers gave people the right to purchase one Wii from the store’s stock, which was being reserved for voucher-holders only until noon. Unfortunately, the vouchers ran out probably 20 people in front of us. I don’t know how we miscalculated. Maybe there were a bunch of people packed into the tents or everyone in line got a voucher even if the group of 2 or 3 were only planning to buy one Wii between them. The bottom line is that we didn’t get a voucher. Time for plan B. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a plan B, so we had to improvise.

Many of the people who didn’t get vouchers at Target quickly ran over to Best Buy and got in line there. However, they didn’t open until 9am and Scott was meeting an old friend at 9am, so it wouldn’t really work to wait in line there. On our way driving out of the parking lot, we stopped and talked to a Best Buy employee. She indicated that their supply would probably be sufficient for all the people in line but if we were to get in line, we wouldn’t be guaranteed one. She told us that some people’s credit cards would probably be declined, so if that happened enough, we could get one. The uncertainty coupled with their later opening time made us decide to try our luck elsewhere.

We decided to try the Best Buy at the Landmark Center near Fenway Park. On our way there, we thought about trying Microcenter. We checked there and it looked like there wasn’t anyone there. I got out to check to see if there were any notices or anything on the door. When I got closer, I discovered that there was someone in line. In fact, he was the line. He was sitting on the ground and was obscured by the bushes near the door. He told me that he had talked to the manager the previous night and that they were getting 17 units. One person in line, 17 units – that seemed good. We decided to keep that as our backup plan and we headed over to Best Buy.

When we got to Best Buy, the line had already been closed. So, we decided to get some breakfast at a nearby Burger King. We hoped to also pick up Sneak King, Big Bumpin’, and Pocketbike Racer. Unfortunately, the cashier told us that the games weren’t in their computers yet, so we couldn’t buy them. I did get a Croissan-wich and some coffee, courtesy of Scott.

Over breakfast we discussed our gameplan. At this point, it seemed like Microcenter was our only sure-fire option. The difficulty, however, was that Microcenter didn’t open until 11am and church started at 10:30am. On top of that, Scott had a 9am meeting with an old friend of his who was in town for only one day. From my perspective, that left us one choice: I skip church and stay in line at Microcenter. Since the Wii was for Scott, he didn’t feel that comfortable asking me to skip church on his account. However, I reminded him that he wasn’t asking me; I was offering. Also, I had gotten up at 5:20am for a reason and I refused to have done that in vain. With the gameplan settled, we headed back to Microcenter.

When we arrived at Microcenter at around 7:30am another 6 people had joined the line. That put us at number 8 in line. We had been driving around in Scott’s car, but if he was going to leave, I would need my car. So, Scott kept our place in line and I walked home and got my car. While I was at home, I went to the bathroom and grabbed a book – I figured I had about 2.5 hours of waiting in line ahead of me, so I wanted to be prepared. When I arrived back at Microcenter, the line was considerably longer and one of their employees was outside talking to people in line. He indicated that they had 12-13 units, not 17 as I had originally been told. Good thing we were number 8.

Eventually, Scott had to leave. While I expected to need my book, I wound up spending the next 2 hours conversing with strangers in the line. Interestingly, the guy behind me was probably my age or a little older. The man behind him was in his 50’s, getting the system for his son. The woman behind him was probably in her late 40’s – also getting the system for her son. When I set out to stand in line for one of these things, I never expected that most of the people around me in line would be older than I am. Anyway, they made very good conversation partners and the time passed very quickly. Every so often someone would walk up and the woman behind me would remind that person that the line started behind us. She was understandably anxious about the situation since she was number 11 in line and more people joining the line at the front could mean that she – or, rather, her son – would be out of luck.

As time progressed, we wondered how the store staff would handle the distribution of systems and maintain order. For quite a while, it seemed like it might wind up being a free-for-all, but maybe 20 minutes before the store opened, an employee came out and gave coupons out to the first 13 people in line. Those 13 would be the lucky ones. Almost everyone else left at that point. I think numbers 14 and 15 stuck around for a little while hoping that someone’s credit card would be declined, but I don’t think they wound up getting anything.

Finally, the store opened and we were ushered into the gaming department. At this point, each coupon-holder was escorted in numerical order around the gaming department so they could select the games and accessories they wanted to purchase with their new system. Ideally, Scott wanted 3 extra controllers, the new Zelda game and some other game, like Super Monkey Ball in addition, of course, to the Wii console. Unfortunately, by the time I was escorted around the room, all the copies of Zelda had already been snapped up, as had all the extra controllers. So, I had to settle for the system and Super Monkey Ball.

Feeling mostly satisfied, I headed home and took a shower. All my layers of clothing had made me sweaty. While we weren’t able to get all the accessories we wanted, we nonetheless did manage to walk away with a Wii console. In the last few days I have read numerous stories of people who did not get systems on launch day. It seems like everyone grossly underestimated the demand, which is why people were content to show up in the morning rather than camping out all night. In spite of the failure of our initial plan, we were able to improvise and, ultimately, we were victorious. Wii are the champions…

1 Response to “Wii are the champions…”

  1. November 23, 2006 at 3:19 am

    Good to see that the mission was accomplished. That was a story…My brother suprised me with a Wii (not for me) when I got home about an hour ago. We’ve played bowling, golfing, boxing, baseball, and Zelda. It’s definitely a different experience. I’m all sweaty from boxing.

    My brother ended up buying his console at a marked up price from someone on craigslist.

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