PS3 Launch Leaves the French Cold

Tight security was in place to guard the line of eager PS3 fans waiting to get their hands on the console in Paris. The only problem? No fans. Then Microsoft came along to stir things up

To start the festivities, the media were invited to come and see the activities at the Champs-Elysées Fnac store at 7pm. But neither the MotorStorm or Resistance or Formula One demo gathered more than a handful of peepers. Already, there were more media people around than declared PS3 buyers.

Next rendez-vous was at the Suffren port on the Seine river, just by the Eiffel Tower, where the Louisiana Bell Boat was waiting. The large embankment was ready to welcome thousands of people. A big screen outside was showing some clips and the popular French movie OSS 117, which was just released on Blu-ray. By 9:30 pm, only a few dozen young people were waiting for their consoles. When asked, they revealed that real buyers were surrounded by one or more friends that wouldn’t buy the console themselves. They didn’t care for the Blu-ray player and yes, they thought the PS3's price was too high. But “the Sony console is something special, a high class product”, conceded one young worker with enough cash in his pocket and a plasma screen ready at home.

The  president of the Fnac group was supposed to make a speech but left before doing so. Long time general manager of Sony Computer France Georges Fornay was also supposed to show and tour the temporary store boat with the media. But if it happened, it was in front of a few select TV cameras. Despite the 15 cash registers ready, the ad hoc store in the boat was too small for any tour anyway.

At 10 pm, a majority of smiling journalists received on their mobile phones a written message wishing them a good evening from “Team Xbox”. Later, a large illuminated and trumpeting boat passed by with Xbox 360 logos all over. Microsoft became the instantaneous uninvited star of the evening.

At midnight no more than 50 people were actually queuing for a PS3. More than 100 media people were trying to get an image or a worthwhile interview. They were the crowd. The first official buyer’s Visa Card didn’t work. His moment in the media moved swiftly to another. The second buyer was overwhelmed by cameras. He didn’t have much to say either. All in all, maybe 50 PS3s sold. 950 were not.

The PS3 launch in Paris was a chilly reminder that media events don’t always go to plan. By moving the media attention out of the usual spot on Les Champs-Elysées, and by trying and failing to gather several hundred so called privileged consumers to buy a limited numbers of PS3 under the Eiffel Tower far from all the regular lights of the city, the midnight momentum lost its focus.