December 8th, 2006, 22:33 Posted By: wraggster
"It feels amazing. I can't believe it's real."
Those were the words of 17 year old Marwan Elgamal from Wembley after he became the first person in the UK to pick up a Wii console. His wait began on Tuesday at 5pm, when he set up camp outside HMV's Oxford Street store, and finally ended at midnight last night.
"I'm a Nintendo fanboy, so I'll buy anything Nintendo. The Wii is just so different, and it just feels so great playing it that I had to be the first one to get it," he said.
"I've enjoyed myself so much during Nintendo games....They keep bringing the gameplay, so I'll keep playing. They're still bringing out titles for their hardcore fanbase and taking a different direction to the casual gamers, and it's just bringing everyone together."
That certainly seemed to be the case earlier on in the evening, judging by comments of a rowdy bunch of gamers who'd met that day and quickly made friends: "We're Wii buddies. We love each other. It's all about the Nintendo Wii, at the end of the day."
But what is it about the Wii they like so much? "Zelda," came the answer from more than one person. "It's all about the sensor thing, innit," said someone else. Other answers included, "Everything," and, "It's Nintendo. Every system has been a winner. Even the Cube."
For 19 year old Daniel Kirby from Kingsbury, the Wii became an essential purchase after he got the chance to play a demo as part of Nintendo's Wii Tour initiative.
"I've always liked Nintendo consoles, because they're always party-oriented and you can play them in big groups," he said. "I played it and I thought, 'I have to get my hands on this.' Because it's completely revolutionary. It's amazing."
There were two queues - one at the front of the store and another snaking down an alley alongside. At the back of the line was 21 year old Med, who was queuing at HMV despite the fact he works in a branch of rival high street retailer GAME.
"All staff are being cut off from the Wii. We're not allowed to buy one until we have some free stock, so I'm here," he said.
"But it's fun, there's a good atmosphere, and Ian Wright's going to be inside; it'll be nice to meet him. So I'm quite happy my company isn't going to sell it to me even though I work for them."
Inside HMV, staff were busy constructing Wii displays, bringing out stock and setting up a stage area where Ian Wright would later join Nell McAndrew, Pat Cash and Ricky Hatton to demo the console. And they were clearly expecting a sell-out, with one spokesperson saying, "If we have got any units left by the end of the night, I won't have done my job properly."
HMV's head of games, Tim Ellis, observed, "It's difficult to pull all the elements together and get your shops ready and things like that, and it's equally difficult for Nintendo as it was for Microsoft and it will be for Sony.
"You know what the frustrations are going to be. We knew six months ago that we weren't going to get enough stock, so you work with that. As long as we can give the public what they want over the next six months, then everyone walks away happy."
Back outside in the queue, talk turned to the software launch line-up - with Zelda top of the list for most of those looking to buy a Wii.
"I can understand why," said Nintendo UK boss David Yarnton.
"I've been playing Zelda on Wii, and it's fantastic. The musical arrangements on it, the graphics, the storyline - even if you're not a gamer, Zelda is the game to have."
That certainly seemed to be the feeling amongst those queueing. "To be truthful there isn't enough choice, but there is Zelda," one gamer said.
Rob, a 24 year old from Croydon, was also a little disappointed but still optimistic regarding the range of software on offer. "With the DS, it was a bit wonky at first - first party titles were really good, but third party titles were a bit hit and miss. But now they're starting to pick up, and I reckon the same will happen with the Wii, within two years or so," he said.
"Zelda's for the hardcore gamers really. I think those types of punters would have wanted more pure gaming," conceded Tim Ellis.
"Personally I'd have liked a few more new releases as I think we can handle them, but in the long run, I don't think it really matters on day one. It's the next six months."
Even those who felt the Wii's launch line-up was lacking seemed to feel it compared well to that for PlayStation 3. "Some of the games look all right, but there's nothing that really stands out and grabs me like Wii Sports and Zelda did," said Rob. So he won't be queueing up to pick up a PS3 in March? "I haven't got that much money."
Standing next to Rob was 25 year old Melinda from Sutton, also a skeptic when it comes to Sony's new console. "I'm a Nintendo fan. I used to like Sony stuff, but I'm a bit unsure about PlayStation 3. I hate the controller - it's not very ergonomic, and I don't like the new trigger buttons."
Meanwhile, the group of new friends down the line were still making noise and eager to offer their opinions on the Wii's other rival, the Xbox 360. "I burn that sh**. I buy one every week and I break it," offered one gamer.
But another confided, "To be honest, I'm going to get both - you've got to have a 360 and a Wii." One of his new friends chimed in, "It's either PlayStation 3 or 360, but I'll go for 360 because of the online service. The Wii can't compare with the 360's online service, but that doesn't mean the Wii is anything less. We love the Wii, that's it."
By now the photographers were in position by the doors of the shop, awaiting the arrival of Wright and company, and passers by were stopping to see what was going on - including Tom, 32, who was born and lives in England but whose family originates from Tokyo, and Ken, 30, from the Okayama prefecture.
Both said the Wii was already a hit in Japan, although they expected the PS3 to take the lead due to the strength of the PlayStation brand. But what about Xbox 360?
"The software for Xbox is not so attractive, and in Japan, many people already have a games console. Unless the software is attractive enough, why should we go there? I don't have any friends who own Xbox, while they own PS1, PS2, other consoles," said Ken.
Tom added, "I think a lot of hardcore gamers believe Microsoft is just out there to make a buck, and they're not out there because gaming is fun and they believe in it. I think that perception runs pretty deep."
But last night wasn't about Xbox or PS3, it was about the Wii - and at 11pm, things began to kick off. A minibus pulled up and out came Wright, McAndrew and Cash, wearing Wii-branded sports clothes and waving to the queue.
The first batch of shoppers were allowed into the store, and the celebs took to the stage constructed beneath a giant TV screen. First McAndrew and Cash played a round of Wii tennis, and then Ricky Hatton turned up to take on Wright at boxing.
They were happy to chat to journalists, and clearly primed to promote the Wii as a console for everyone. Former Lara Croft model McAndrew offered, "Even though I've had a connection with games in the past, I'm not very good at the games, so this is perfect for me."
Meanwhile, Cash was debating whether kids wouldn't be better off playing real tennis in the open air. "This is a step in the right direction," he said. "I'd prefer them to be playing tennis, but the other side of it is by playing games like this I think kids will go, 'Hang on, I'm going to try tennis.' That's a fantastic thing, so hopefully it'll work well together."
Back on stage, everything seemed to be going well until Marwan was invited up to talk about what it felt like to be the first person in Britain to get their hands on a Wii. "Which game are you most looking forward to?" Wright asked him. "Twilight Princess," came the reply.
"Is that a fighting game?", Wright said - only to be met with loud boos from the hardcore gaming crowd for his lack of Zelda knowledge.
Luckily it was time for the ten second countdown, and for Marwan to be marched off to the tills to pick up his Wii. Afterwards, he echoed the crowd's sentiments with regard to Wright's comments: "Everyone should know what Zelda is. It should be illegal that nobody knows what Zelda is."
But never mind - Marwan had his Wii, and a copy of Twilight Princess, and a taste of fame. So was he glad he spent all those hours waiting outside in the cold? "I'm glad I did it, and I'd do it again."
It seems unlikely that Marwan will be doing it again for the launch of PS3, self-confessed Nintendo fanboy that he is. But come March, there will be yet another queue of gamers waiting to get their hands on a new console - and undoubtedly, yet more stock shortages as Sony struggles to meet the demand. For now, though, as those in last night's queue said, it's all about the Wii.
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