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Joseph Lee, a Marine stationed at Kaneohe Marine Base, Hawaii, plays a video game on Sony’s new, yet unreleased, Playstation 3 at the Sony Expo held at the Ala Moana Hotel on Friday in Honolulu.

Joseph Lee, a Marine stationed at Kaneohe Marine Base, Hawaii, plays a video game on Sony’s new, yet unreleased, Playstation 3 at the Sony Expo held at the Ala Moana Hotel on Friday in Honolulu. (Marco Garcia / AP)

The good news is that games for two new video game consoles coming out later this month are available online for preorder. The bad news is that the consoles themselves aren’t.

Both the Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation 3 will launch in less than two weeks’ time, and supplies of both are anemic. Army and Air Force Exchange Service PowerZone stores in Europe can expect to see anywhere from six to 36 of the $249 Wii consoles appear and disappear from their shelves, sometime soon after the U.S. release date of Nov. 19.

“I think there was supposed to be 2,664 worldwide for AAFES,” said Teresa Gaskins, a retail program specialist for AAFES Europe. She added that she didn’t know if the Wii consoles would arrive in Europe by the console’s U.S. launch date because they could be slowed by customs.

AAFES has also allotted at least 600 Wii consoles for its downrange stores, Gaskins said.

As far as the quantity and arrival date for Playstation 3 in Europe or downrange, “I don’t know any of that yet,” Gaskins said. AAFES had anticipated the consoles would be in stores the week of Nov. 20, she said, “but we’re not sure.”

Those eager to get their hands on one of the coveted consoles had better be ready to zip to a PowerZone at a moment’s notice when they do arrive. PowerZone stores contacted by Stars and Stripes indicated they didn’t intend to allow customers to sign up on waiting lists to purchase the consoles before Christmas.

“We don’t even know when they’re going to get here,” said John Rivera, an employee at the PowerZone in Ramstein, Germany. “It’s pretty much up in the air.”

A Naval Exchange official is still expecting the game consoles to arrive soon.

“As in the past, the rollout of new launches overseas has mirrored those in the continental United States within a day or so,” said Kristine M. Sturkie, a NEX command spokeswoman. “Delivery of merchandise overseas takes a bit longer due to transit times and unexpected delays.”

But, an employee at the Navy Exchange in Naples, Italy, said there has been no word yet on when the new machines might be arriving. However, for popular electronic merchandise, the Naples exchange typically sets up a customer logbook — sort of first-come-first-served — where customers are notified when their desired item arrives, the employee said.

While the consoles may be hard to come by, supplies of games for the systems are more robust. Dozens of game titles are available for preorder at AAFES’ online store and at other online retailers for about $60 apiece.

The uncertainty in supplies of the PS3 console, meanwhile, appears to rest with Sony, which is shipping far fewer units than originally anticipated. Sony announced in September that it would ship 400,000 PS3 consoles to North America for its Nov. 17 launch, and 6 million worldwide by the end of March 2007. Some analysts in Japan have said as few as 4.13 million PS3s will ship by the end of March.

Delays in the PS3 release, the high price tag — the PS3 comes in two models, ranging from $499 to $599 — and the general sweetness of XBox 360 is enough for Senior Airman Ray Kaehler of Lakenheath’s 48th Security Forces Squadron to stick with Microsoft.

“I considered (buying a PS3), but the Xbox has too much to offer,” the 21-year-old Kentucky native said, adding that he bought a 360 right after it came out a year ago.

But Senior Airman Nick Jensen of RAF Mildenhall’s 100th Security Forces Squadron said he is a “dedicated” Playstation enthusiast who will definitely pick up a PS3.

It might be awhile though, he said, due to the high price.

“I’d be willing to do it for $300, but the whole price now is not vibing with me,” the 25-year-old Missouri native said.

Stars and Stripes reporters Geoff Ziezulewicz in Lakenheath, England, and Sandra Jontz in Naples, Italy, contributed to this story.


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