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Another Portland Blog

Monday, November 20, 2006


Wii, Wii, Wii, all the way home

So where did you spend your Saturday night? I'm willing to bet it wasn't in Beaverton with a few hundred others bent on taking home a Wii.

Yup, I braved the weather to stand in line outside of a Fred Meyer. For six hours I sat, stood and cursed time itself while wedged between two packs of geeks as the cold and the boredom slowly began to wear on them. Sure, I had company and, sure, we brought a pair of DSs to make the night go faster. But unlike my line buddy and at least 40% of everyone else, I wasn't there because I'm a hardcore Nintendo fan. I like video games as much as the next dork but I prefer mine mixed with shotguns and car chases instead of, well, Kirby.

After adding my name to the list and hunkering down for the long wait ahead, dollar signs flashed across my baby blues. If all went as planned, this evening would result in a fairly easy $300+ payday. $50 an hour to stand in line and play video games? Eh, why not? That's the free market and I've been on the losing end of it more than a few times. An opportunity to become a one-time eBay scalper had come my way and who was I to turn it down?

Nobody said it would be easy. Some of the people in line looked like they hadn't bathed in weeks and many of them had come ill-prepared. One teen had arrived clad in a pair of shorts and a thin U of O hoodie. There was no way he was going to make it all way to midnight. There were bound to be at least a few other casualties (ie, gamers saying "the hell with this" and heading down the street to see Borat again). And there were the reports from the night before when the Playstation 3 had launched in stores around the country. Cons, shootings, riots and mayhem fueled by greed, pixel addiction and ill tempers. How would this Beaverton crowd react if someone came through with a pistol to rob them of their hard-earned Wii dollars? Would any of them take a bullet to play Twilight Princess or ExciteTruck?

Of course, this is Beaverton we're talking about. None of that went down. The closest thing I saw to a fight was when a cranky elderly couple came out of the store and spotted the line. "What, are you people waitin' for some kinda vid-ier game," the husband asked.

"No," one quick witted blond up front replied. "There's a turkey shortage. Didn't you hear?"

"What? No turkeys," he asked, skeptical but no doubt considering whether or not a Thanksgiving bird would be worth four hours in line. The blond dragged the ruse on for another twenty seconds or so before setting him straight. He seemed to understand. There's no telling how many more turkey lectures she delivered on Saturday night.

Morale sank in our corner of the line right around 9 PM. The rousing game of Magic at the card table next to us had finally died down and the temperature was dropping fast. The teens on our left had their round table binge of Tetris DS interrupted by low batteries. With no juice, there was nothing left to do but bury themselves in blankets and actually talk to one another. The teen in the shorts quickly went into a daze and asked for the time every five minutes. Another abandoned his friends. He said he was going to the bathroom but later confessed to sneaking over to watch Cars on the floor model HDTVs in the Electronics Department. It might not have been the best time to break out our fully-powered DSs for a game of Tetris but they seemed to understand and kindly kept their lectures on everything I was doing wrong to a minimum.

On the verge of giving up, a morale booster pulled into the parking spot in front of them. One of the teen's mothers had arrived with take-out Panda Express. It may as well have been manna from heaven. All things considered, I should have headed inside to buy a few 32s of Miller Hi Life and spent the whole time kickin' it hobo style. But the last thing I wanted to do after the store officially shut down at 11 PM was wander around in search of a bush out of view of the line. Mario Kart made the time fly and, before we knew it, midnight had come.

Most of the games were picked over by the time we got inside. My colleague would have to wait until morning to hit a nearby Target for a copy of the new Zelda game. She was lucky enough to track down a copy of Red Steel down the street at Game Crazy but we later made the mistake of heading over to the Beaverton Best Buy. Outside, around a hundred people were still hunkered down in the cold at 1 AM. Best Buy wasn't doing a midnight sale and they would have to stick it out until morning. It's a good thing our Wiis (yeah, that's sounds dirty) were out of sight. That crowd could have gone all Dawn on the Dead (04) on us.

We took one Wii out for a spin back at the house. Swinging around a controller like a baseball bat or a tennis racket is a blast, as is literally tossing a "coo-coo" in Link's village, but I don't know if it's worth $250 plus the cost of the games themselves. Plus, I've got a stack of titles for my Xbox 1.0 to still get through. I've devoted twenty hours of my life to The Godfather game and I still haven't completely extorted all of NYC's small business owners. Vid-ier games take too much time to get through. Not like back in my day when you could blast through one in eleven minutes flat.

Still undaunted, I stuck my Wii (still sounds dirty) up on eBay last night after following the site's rules on selling these puppies. Sure enough, my auction was taken down within hours. While some of my fellow opportunists are pulling in anywhere between $300 - $3,000 in pure profit for next generation consoles, mine was the one the monitors decided to take down. I don't know what rule I broke but I'm going to give it one last shot. If it's deleted a second time, I guess my Wii will be returned to the Beaverton Freddie's.

And I will have learned a valuable lesson. Console scalping doesn't pay. Sure, it pays if you can hire homeless people to wait in line for you or if you're incredibly familiar with the pitfalls of eBay. But if you're me, a chump that could actually use the cash? Nope, doesn't pay. Not one bit.

But I'm not ruling this out if Taco Bell is taking Wiis. Or this.

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