First come, first serve for PS3, Wii buyers

Best Buy's giving 'tickets' to early bird shoppers to buy limited number of PS3s on launch day; Circuit City holding free giveaways of the gaming systems.

By Parija B. Kavilanz, staff writer

NEW YORK ( -- How badly do you want to score a Playstation 3 or a Wii, or both of the hot gaming systems when they hit stores next week?

If you're already losing sleep over it, then you're halfway to success.

Sony's Playstation 3 hits stores on Nov. 17. The gaming system features two models. The 20 GB hard drive system is priced at $499 and the 60 GB hard drive system will sell for $599.
Nintendo's Wii launches in stores on Nov. 19. The game console, which features a wand-like controller, is priced at $250.

Sony (Charts)'s Playstation 3 is set to launch in the U.S. on Nov. 17.

Nintendo's oddly-named "Wii" videogame machine debuts two days later on Nov. 19th

Playstation 3 (PS3) is the pricier system. Sony has developed two versions of the console for $499 and $599. The Wii will cost half that amount at $250.

But what's likely to make PS3 a hotter commodity is the anticipated shortages of the system.

Sony's has set aside just 400,000 PS3 units for sale in the United States at launch and a total of two million units for worldwide sale.

Nintendo's plans to ship 4 million units of Wii worldwide, although it hasn't disclosed how much of that inventory is slotted for sale in the U.S.

Retailers including Best Buy (Charts), Circuit City (Charts), Wal-Mart (Charts) and Toys 'R Us admit that managing launch day demand of both systems will be a challenge given the tight inventory, especially of the PS3.

All four merchants expect to be out of stock in a matter of hours on day one. Even so, these merchants hope to receive more units on a weekly basis in the following weeks.

Can't wait that long?

Here are some tips that might give you an edge over the other 200 fans who'll be in line behind you next week.

No pain, no gain

Best Best, the No. 1 electronics retailer, will open its stores earlier than usual at 8:00 a.m. for the PS3 launch.

Jill Hamburger, Best Buy's vice president of gaming, wouldn't say how many PS3 units will be available per store but told that the retailer was "hoping for more units and additional shipments throughout the holidays."

Consumers cannot pre-order PS3 or Wii at

However, Best Buy is holding midnight openings at about 18 stores locations nationwide for PS3, including in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Minneapolis.

She explained that these stores will use a "ticket" system. Given the limited quantity, the first few customers in line are more likely to get a ticket to purchase a PS3.

"We've found that the ticket system is the best way to manage customer demand for a limited quantity products," she said.

For Nintendo's launch, Best Buy stores will open at 9:00 a.m. and the company hasn't scheduled any midnight openings.

Free giveaways

Circuit City isn't allowing consumers to pre-order the systems on its Web site, either.

Similar to Best Buy, the No. 2 seller of gadgets and gizmos is holding "Game on at midnight" events at six locations for the PS3 debut, including its store in Union Square, New York, the Torrance store in Los Angeles, Cherry Hill store in Philadelphia, and the Short Pump store in Richmond, Virginia, said company spokesman Jim Babb.

The event gets underway at 9:00 p.m on Nov. 16 at those locations. At 10:00 p.m., Circuit City will give out vouchers to the first 100 people in line. At midnight, anyone with a voucher can buy the new PS3.

If you didn't make the cut, Babb said the retailer has another trick up its sleeve. Circuit City will give away five PS3s at five of the locations and an additional 100 units in New York to winners of a special drawing.

And there are no early openings planned for Wii's Sunday launch, Babb said.

Gaming madness at Wal-Mart

It's first come, first to get at Wal-Mart too, as the world's largest retailer gears up for its own midnight launch parties for PS3.

In an email response to, the world's largest retailer said it was overwhelmed by customers' response to preorders of Wii on

"Given this popular demand, we are not currently accepting pre-orders on our site but are evaluating options for additional pre-orders before the official launch on Nov. 19," said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Jolanda Stewart. CEO Carter Cast said in an interview Thursday that the online division will bundle the Wii console with games and sell it as a total package rather than sell individual units of just the system.

"If consumer want only the system they can buy that at Wal-Mart stores," he said.

Meanwhile, Toys 'R Us is hosting the Nintendo's official midnight launch event at its flagship location in New York City where Reggie Fils-Aime, president of Nintendo of America, will hand out the first Wii unit to it's first U.S. customer.

Company spokeswoman Kathleen Waugh said the toy seller plans to sell both systems in all of its 587 stores.

"We fully expect to go through our allocations on launch day but we're hoping to replenish our stock through the season," she said.

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