It's 7:00am and there's only one guy in front of Yodobashi Camera in Osaka's Umeda. He tells me he's waiting for the DSi, points out that he's first in line and adds that he just got here. That's it? Only one guy waiting for the DSi? No, not quite. Thing is, he probably won't get a DSi today. Signs around the corner state that pre-orders has finished. There's no Yodobashi staff to be seen, but later when I swing by, an employee tells me that only customers with pre-orders are able to purchase the DSi — explaining why no one was lined up last night!Smart move on Yodobashi Camera's part. The DS Lite, PS3, and Wii launches were mobs of people that make for great television, but shit shopping. Couple that with the gray market (homeless men waiting to buy the Wii), and it's easy to see why the retailer is doing pre-orders.
Hopping on a train, I check out the Bic Camera in Namba. Like Yodobashi Camera, Bic is a huge electronic store. Around the side, there are a couple folding chairs. A father and his daughter are talking to a Bic Camera employee. Otherwise, it's deserted. The store has been taking pre-orders, but a staffer gives me a ticket to wait in line. I'm number 41.
The ticket tells me to come back between 8:30am and 9:00am. I've got time to kill. Let's go to a vending machine. Swing by the Sofmap in Den-Den Town, Osaka's version of Akihabara.
Not a soul in site.
Likewise, Sofmap is doing pre-orders, which are finished. Drained of DSi stock, there's a notice from Sofmap apologizing for the sell out. Let's go to a vending machine!
Oh, Den-Den Town, don't you ever change. Santa, you should be ashamed! I cross back over to Namba to check out retailer Labi.
A line of people! (How do you like this stealth shot? Sneaky, eh? After I take it, some dude starts waving at me. I go and talk to said dude. He's talking, telling me how he got here last night at 11:00 pm.)
There can't be more than fifty people in line. A barricade forms a route for the line to wrap around and feed out into a larger plaza. Fifty people isn't enough to wrap around yet — but there's still time. Doors should open in an hour or so.
Doubling back, I head to Bic Camera. Another line of people! Hooray! It's just like the good old days — in which people stood on hard concrete for hours instead of pre-ordering. Pre-ordering is for wussies. There's exactly 57 people in that line. Well, that's what the Bic Camera man holding the sign tells me. Guess he's counted them. I haven't so, we'll take his word for it. He's telling me that "there are about 100 pre-orders" (wussies!) and that "we thought there would be about 80 people lined-up by now."
For comparison sake, here is a line to enter a pachinko parlor across from Bic Camera. More standing. Nothing happens. Literally. Not. A. Damn. Thing. The crowd is a fair mix of hipsters, girls, old grannies and a few small children. A Bic Camera staffer comes out with a mic and tells us they're going to open the doors. They do, and we go in and stand on the hard linoleum. Get to the register and shell out for the DSi. I ask the girl behind the counter how many they've sold, but she says she doesn't know. "Do you think it's going to sell out?" "Yes. Yes, I do." "Today?" "Yep." Take the bag with a new black DSi and go look for another vending machine.