The PlayStation profit game

By BRIAN KELLY

Herald Writer

The odyssey is over. And great graphics aside, it’s time to see if these things can sing ka-ching.

Or so hope a growing number of new PlayStation 2 owners, the stand-in-line stalwarts who braved boredom and the crush of the crowd recently to get their hands on the hottest video game machine in years.

With Sony shipping fewer PlayStation 2 machines than previously promised, some are hoping to resell their consoles for a tidy profit. Maybe by as much as $1,000 more than the retail price.

“I saw it as an investment,” said Charles White of Monroe.

Sony had planned to ship a million units for its North American launch of the game player, but later cut that number in half. Although the company has promised to ship 100,000 each week until Christmas, many of the machines have been preordered and some stores don’t expect to have extra consoles until spring.

The machines, which also play DVDs and older PlayStation games, have a suggested retail price of $299.

White, a 50-year-old corrections officer at the prison in Monroe, bought his PlayStation 2 at a Fred Meyer store when they went on sale 10 days ago.

He set his alarm for 4 a.m. so he could get in line early, but had second thoughts after his head hit the pillow.

“I wasn’t going to do it,” White recalled. “I hemmed and hawed, then I woke up before the alarm went off.”

White relented, drove down to the store and took a place in line at 4:30 a.m.

At 6 a.m., an employee came out and told the crowd the store had only two dozen consoles.

“I was number 22; I squeaked in,” said White, who doesn’t play video games and doesn’t own a computer.

The game player put him back $324 with tax. It also made him 15 minutes late for work that day.

Now, he’s selling the game – still in its box with cardboard flaps unflipped and plastic wrap intact – for the best offer above $1,000. Or he’ll sell the machine to the first person to paper his palm with $1,350.

Marvin Eutsey, a 40-year-old supervisor at Costco, had originally planned on keeping his console.

He, too, waited for hours.

“I went through royal hell,” said Marvin Eutsey, 40.

All told, it cost him $443. Eutsey’s asking price: $750.

At a friend’s party a week ago, Eutsey saw the console in action. The graphics are awesome, he said.

“I was really considering keeping it,” Eutsey said. “With Christmas coming up and three kids at home …. I kind of put two and two together. It’s an awful lot of money.”

“If worse comes to worse, I can always take it back,” he said.

The machines have been selling on eBay, the Internet auction site, in the $500 range. That hasn’t stopped other sellers from seeking more, however, with some asking for bids of up to $2,950 for a PlayStation2 last week.

Stores began selling the consoles Oct. 26. By the following day, they were being offered in newspaper classified ads for $1,000. And the number of classified ads in Seattle-area newspapers hawking the machines has grown steadily since.

History is repeating itself, said Levi Buchanan, recalling the resale frenzy that surrounded the release of Nintendo’s new game console several years ago.

“Grinches pop up every holiday season,” said Buchanan, editor-in-chief of GameFan, a video gamers magazine.

“Unfortunately, this was bound to happen once the shortage was announced,” he said.

Sony started hyping the machine more than 18 months ago by leaking pictures of the prototype, Buchanan said. But must-have toy crazes began with Cabbage Patch Kids in 1984.

And just 10 years before that, Pong, the first home video game, hit the market.

Allan Alcorn, a co-designer of Pong, recalled trying to get retailers interested in the game at a New York toy fair early that year. Until then, people watched TVs, they didn’t play with them, he said.

“We didn’t sell one unit,” Alcorn said, recalling the disinterested people passing by his booth.

Only 150,000 Pong players were made the first year, and Sears became the exclusive dealer because no other retailers were interested.

“And it was a big hit. Demand far exceeded supply,” Alcorn said.

“But then again, it was a 100 percent market share.”

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