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APAR's WORKING WEEKEND: The Woodstock of Videogames

27 Oct, 2000 By: Bruce Apar

It’s World Series time, and even though I am writing this in the middle of the fifth game, with the score tied and the Yankees leading the series 3-1, I boldly predict that the series will be won by New York.

This past week also saw what could be considered, if not the World Series, then the Woodstock of videogame launches, with Sony’s apocalyptic PlayStation 2 rocking retail shelves nationwide.

Just like at Woodstock, there was false advertising (despite promoting “three days of peace and love,” I didn’t get much love myself at the festival), with stores brazenly advertising PS2 the previous weekend as if you could walk in off the street and take one home, no problem. Big Problem.

[My better half was literally laughed at when she tried to buy a unit at Babbage’s, which told her it was allotted 10 units a week and had 200 orders to fill, “so try us in March.” Toys “R” Us simply played an “out of luck” outgoing message to callers.]

Just like at Woodstock, teenagers camped out overnight storeside, in the slim hopes of laying claim to a precious PS2. Others camped in front of a computer screen to see auctioners on website e-bay posting “sale” prices of $700 for a PS2, past the point of silliness. Such is the cost of instant gratification.

We agree with Mindy Pickard of giant BMG, who notes in next week’s Video Store that music will propel DVD into a new dimension of entertainment that movies only have hinted at. The time and sensory obligation of watching a feature is no match for the more versatile uses of music, which can be used as background for homework (my kids better not be reading this) or a teenage party, with DVD changers turning Generation PS2 into homegrown VJs.

Besides, having Britney or ‘N’ Sync come alive on PS2’s DVD drive in a schoolkid’s bedroom will make static wall posters positively passe.

As if PS2 needed a boost, the scarcity of the magic mushrooms has its target demo in a frenzy.

We don’t necessarily doubt Sony’s reasons for the shortages, but we also don’t doubt Sony hasn’t lost a step in its widely admired ability to create a compelling mystique around cutting-edge gadgets. Even if the shortage isn’t marketing by design, Sony isn’t at all averse to play it as it lays, to the hilt.

Vivid memories linger of the 1980s press conference where the first Walkman was introduced. Journalists donning stereo earphones (until then, all we knew was a transistor’s mono earplug) looked at each other agape in disbelief at the sound from these little suckers, just as this weekend a lucky few are at home staring incredulously at the eerily lifelike graphics of the PlayStation 2.

Like Grace Slick said, it’s a new dawn.

Comments? Contact Bruce directly at:bapar@advanstar.com

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