Gamers at the Sony PlayStation 3 launch at the Virgin Megastore on London's Oxford Street got more than they bargained for last night, when they each walked away not only with Sony's new console, but also a free 46-inch high-definition TV.
The 100 or so die-hard PS3 fans couldn't believe their luck as their loyalty paid dividends in a way they could never have imagined as they waited the long hours leading up to midnight. Some had been in the queue since Wednesday afternoon.
To top it all off, Sony also provided free taxi rides home for the lucky gamers and their kit - although it took two Virgin staff to carry the televisions to the waiting taxis.
Sony Studios boss Phil Harrison was at the store, as was former Sony Europe boss Chris Deering. Our sister site computerandvideogames.com has footage of the first punter fumbling through his wallet to get his hands on the console - and the resultant HD TV.
Some may view the giveaway as an attempt by Sony to gloss over the fact that interest in the much-hyped console has been less than overwhelming. But that won't matter one bit to the lucky souls who braved the Oxford Street elements last night.
It is estimated that the gesture cost Sony in the region of £250,000 - a considerable amount considering the company is reputed to be making a substantial loss on the player, despite its steep £425 price tag.
Most of Sony's subsidy comes in the form of the Blu-ray drive. Sony hopes the PS3 can propel Blu-ray into an unassailable lead in the HD market.
Plenty of stock
Despite the headline-grabbling launch, the console's appearance in UK high streets was decidedly low-key. That's because Sony has made sure there is enough stock around. 220,000 consoles were shipped to the UK, a million to the whole of the PAL region. Compare this to the 300,000 Xbox 360 (opens in new tab) s that were allotted to the whole of Europe by Microsoft in 2005 - the UK barely saw 70,000 of them.
Back in 2005 the Xbox 360 sold out well before the day of release, while you still can't get a Nintendo Wii for love nor money.
"Sony has told us that it doesn't want to be in an out-of-stock situation at any point," said Lisa Foster, editor of the games industry weekly MCV , "so there are plenty of units continuing to come into the UK."
Our straw poll of stores yesterday found there were still plenty of PS3 consoles available.
Canvassing the stores in Bath revealed that every single shop offering a PS3 pre-order can still guarantee customers a console, even just one day before launch.
WH Smith (opens in new tab) told us that six had been delivered. Indeed, shop staff informed us they had "plenty" of those still available for Friday and commented "you probably don't have to pre-order, just come in on Friday."
The local Sony Store, rather obviously, had more consoles available than the other shops. But the general trend continued: they'd had 20 PS3s delivered earlier in the week, but had taken only 11 pre-orders.
HMV staff informed us that they had "loads" of PlayStations in stock. They added that "loads" of them were still up for grabs, saying that they "hadn't had that many" pre-orders yet despite pre-ordering being available for over a month.
We'll be visiting stores again today to check on stock levels, while we'll also have people at stores in London checking on availability.