The Tokyo launch of Sony's hotly anticipated PS3 games console was an alarming and disorganised spectacle, with serious gamers the losers.
It was noticed early on, from the blank looks and hardware-only focus of those at the front of the queue, that people were not buying for themselves. Sure enough, the PS3s immediately popped up on the internet, with online prices surging by as much as 50 percent.
Now a reader of the gaming site Kotaku has offered more details of the cynical feeding frenzy that overtook Tokyo on Saturday morning. Impoverished and elderly Chinese nationals formed the bulk of the queue, 'Dirk Benedict' reports, waiting patiently in the rain after receiving instructions (but, until the last minute, no money) from internet auctioneers. The first 20 PS3s, he writes, were purchased without any games, and by customers speaking at best halting Japanese.
The result? Gamers left out in the cold, and almost the entire hardware supply spirited away for markup and sell-on. Not to mention a horrendous experience for everyone that queued up to be pushed around, bellowed at through megaphones and turned away empty-handed.
Would it be naive to suggest that manufacturers ought to pull their socks up, and lay on sufficient product that gamers are not required to wait in line for a week? Perhaps companies get their kicks from seeing their consoles greeted with hysterical obsession, and perhaps the rarity value and sheer suffering required to own a PS3 will make it into a must-have item. But most of the gamers we know really can't be bothered, and plan to wait until the price drops anyway – assuming they don't plump for a Wii instead.
(We're not sure if it's the Dirk Benedict, incidentally, but we suspect not.)