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Coming soon: PlayStation 2 pandemonium
SAN FRANCISCO, California (CNN) -- Sony's long-awaited release of its latest video game console is guaranteed to pump up the volume on video game sales, which is already a $7 billion business annually.
Lauren Fielder of GameSpot.com hardly looked up as she slashed and slew her way through an advance copy of "Tekken Tag Tournament" for the PlayStation 2.
"Kids are spending fifty dollars to seventy dollars, you know, a pop on these games. There's money here!"
And more to come.
The PlayStation 2 console will sell for $299 -- a lot by today's standards. And the buzz is good.
Superior graphics and "smarter" play made it a big attraction recently at a preview unit on display at the EBX Electronic Boutique store in San Francisco.
Gamer Richard Balugo has a PlayStation (One) with a pile of games already and says he is ready to plunk down his money for the new console. The list of features, he says, is awesome -- including the fact that it can also be a DVD player and has superior graphics.
Fewer units shipped
But he'll probably have to wait for the coveted gaming device.
Sony originally promised a million of the units to be shipped on its release date, October 26. Then it cut that figure to half a million. That used to be a lot of units in the console industry, but now it's not nearly enough to satiate the appetite for louder slams in "Tekken," more aggressive pass blocking on "Madden 2001" football and stunning snowscapes on "SSX."
Sony says it tried to discourage stores from selling in advance. But the EBX game stores said they had little choice. Store manager Ken Pang says the only way they could ensure units for their more frequent customers was to create a list.
"All of our customers who participated in our presale list will get it," he said.
For its part, Sony says it will produce an additional 100,000 units per week until it has about 1.4 million units in North America by the end of the year. That guarantees one thing: PlayStation 2 will be a sure bet as this year's must-have, can't-get Christmas gift.
On debut day some stores will open at midnight. Experienced gamers who have not made previous arrangements, like paying full price in advance, will have to scour the countryside for their catch. Wes Nehei of GamePro magazine says the search is just another game.
"You want to get there early and you want to find some outlet that's off the beaten track," Nehei said.
Nehei says the larger the store the better, and better yet if it's a store that does not specialize in computer games.
But he offers a caveat.
"There are going to be people all over the place trying to beat you out. They're gamers, you know. They're gamers and they're strategizing, figuring out, so they've got this game plan in place."
This is the latest chapter in the industry's game of technical leapfrog.
Last year Sega's Dreamcast blew minds and the competition. It also featured a modem for online Internet play, something this year's Sony PlayStation 2 lacks. Late next year Microsoft promises its Xbox game console, and Nintendo will release its next-generation machine, the GameCube.
Hard core gamers -- about a third of the market -- will buy all three, said Lauren Fielder of GameSpot.com.
"There's always diehards and early adopters that will be the first person, they have to get it so they can tell everybody else they have it and what it's like," she said.
One gamer said he waits until the first price break to make his buy. For the PlayStation 2 that might mean a wait until late next summer, when Nintendo or Microsoft begin the rumble of their coming attractions.
Fielder is also pleased by the wider acceptance of video games.
"Suddenly you have magazines like Rolling Stone and Spin covering the launch of a new system where a couple of years ago they couldn't have cared less. You have all these different sources looking at it saying, 'Hey should we pay attention to this.'"
And she delights in pointing out that video games are no longer just for the guys.
PlayStation2: This sequel could be a blockbuster
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