Retailers sell out of initial Xbox 360 shipment

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener, Humphrey Cheung

Los Angeles (CA) and Chicago (IL) - The shopping frenzy for Microsoft's Xbox 360 has been in full swing since today, 12:01 am EST, and even earlier in some locations. If you haven't bought the console by now, there's good news and bad news. The good one is, you've saved yourself about $500 for a basic gaming package. The bad one is, it'll probably cost you twice as much if you can't wait for an Xbox 360 until January.

Microsoft's big day that is predicted to change the gaming world has arrived. And the big hype around the Xbox 360 has paid off, at least for Microsoft. 24-hour stores and retailers that opened their doors at midnight as well as stores that granted access to their 360 allocation this morning are reporting that their shipment is sold out.

After providing you a basic strategy how to increase your chances to get a console yesterday, of course we were interested, if the interest in the device in fact would be as strong as everyone expected. The short answer: It was, at least in the locations we visited. The first store to carry some boxes in our areas was a suburban Chicago "Meijer" grocery store. About 200 people waiting in line and jamming food aisles around 10:30 pm prompted the store manager to give out tickets for his 8 available units one hour early at 11 pm.

Adam, a student at Northern Illinois University, was one of the lucky shoppers to receive a ticket and a "Premium" console and one game for just about $500. He told us that he waited about five hours in line and considered the Xbox 360 worth the wait - even if his girlfriend was not too happy with him that he invested this kind of money and time into video gaming. Most shoppers left with empty hands - most of them were quite unhappy that Microsoft would announce what it calls a global launch with very small shipment numbers per store. Other did not expect anything different and hope to get a package at least before Christmas: "I have been doing this for 20 years, so here we go again," said Jack, who tried to buy a console for his son-in-law.

Xbox 360 purchase in Chicago
Adam with his Xbox 360 in front
of a Chicago Meijer store

At the EB Games store inside the Universal City Citywalk in Los Angeles, around 150 people waited in line for their Xbox 360s. Set against the backdrop of the Hard Rock Café, a Tylenol van and a DJ sent by a local radio station, the scene resembled a movie opening instead of a console launch. The store opened at midnight, but people had already started lining up at 10:00 pm for the invitation-only event. A few people waited in style while sitting in their folding chairs, drinking soda and eating the free pizza.

The invitation only guaranteed a chance to purchase the console, but several raffles for free Xbox 360 units were done in the hour before the launch. Even though all the units were already reserved, some people without reservations showed up. We talked with Alex from nearby Burbank, who had been standing in line for about 45 minutes. "I was in the area and figured I would at least try," said Alex. A security guard eventually told him to get out of line.

At around 11:45 pm, the last shipment of Xbox 360 units, stacked four high on a pallet, were delivered to the store. At the stroke of midnight, white and green fireworks doused the entranceway of the store. After the smoke cleared, EB Games employees opened the doors and ushered in the first customers. And there were not only gamers among the crowd but also dads that were sent to buy the console: "It's actually for my son. I don't even know how to hook these things up," one buyer told us.

Xbox 360 Launch Los Angeles 1
About 150 patiently waited in line
at the EB Games store in Los Angeles

If you really want an Xbox 360 box to sparkle under your Christmas tree, then it's time again for the hunt - either early today in line or with some extra cash at hand to outbid other gamers in auctions. Microsoft says it will produce about 3 million boxes before year end. This includes units for global markets such as Europe, where the console will be launched on December 2. Most retailers we asked told us that they do not expect another Xbox 360 shipment before Christmas. In a best case scenario, they say another shipment "cannot be guaranteed," as mainly game stores will receive units for customers who pre-ordered the systems weeks ago.

But there is always Ebay and the Xbox 360 units popped up minutes after the consoles went on sale at midnight. Around 12 pm PST, packages were fetching between $700 and $1000, with some units that came with money-back guarantees and a few games hitting well over $1500.

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Xbox 360, Part I: Aiming For The High Definition and Multimedia Promised Land
Xbox 360, Part II: Aiming For The High Definition and Multimedia Promised Land