Lately in New York, the weather hasn't able to make up its mind. We've had not only the first few genuine days of spring, but also messy downpours of snow and rain.
On Saturday night, the eve of the Nintendo 3DS's American debut at a Best Buy in Union Square, the gods of the sky decided to compromise: Those who chose to stand outside and play—and at midnight, buy—the new handheld were blessed with a sky free of precipitation, but cursed with a temperature that, according to Weather.com, felt like 24 degrees.
That was good enough for diehard Nintendo fans. When I arrived at 8:30 p.m., there were already about 100 of them waiting in line to purchase the system, dealing with the cold by bundling up and grabbing warm food from the on-site taco and pretzel vendors. Popular rap and R&B tracks pounded through a PA system.
First in line was Brooklyn's Triforce Johnson—yes, that's his real name; he showed me his passport. He'd been in front of Best Buy since Monday, he told me (though other outlets have reported Tuesday), swapping in and out with friends, enduring the weather, and even getting hassled when the store's management called the cops. He's been a fan of Nintendo's launch events for years. "I like the community—just look at this!" he said, gesturing with his Power Glove-encased hand toward his fellow line-waiters, who were excitedly cheering as Nintendo staff handed out swag.
Fourth and fifth in line, respectively, were Antoine Lewis-Hall, 26, and Kwabena Ampofo, 28, both New Yorkers from the website SOSGamers.org. They were picking up some 3DSs to auction for charity; the money will go to Japan relief efforts. "We also want them for ourselves to play," confessed Ampofo, who cited Metal Gear Solid and Zelda titles as his most anticipated. "I think it's amazing, the next step in handheld gaming."
It's not just young men who love handheld gaming, of course, and a little ways back in the line was Raine Lopez, who was celebrating her seventh birthday with her mother, Patricia Velasquez of Manhattan. Lopez couldn't wait to try the new Nintendogs and LEGO games, and her mother was looking forward to Street Fighter, The Sims, and 3D movies.
As the event officially kicked off at 9 p.m., I got a chance to speak with Marc Franklin, director of PR for Nintendo of America. He seemed genuinely excited about his company's latest product as he ran me through the various features: the 3D video and photo capabilities, the console-to-console social networking, the automatic Mii generation, the pre-loaded games, the new analog control stick, the pedometer that gives you credit for taking the system wherever you go. He seemed especially thrilled with the Ocarina of Time remake, pointing out how much easier it is to switch items with a touch screen.