Gadget mania

US video game stores opened their doors at midnight yesterday to start selling to Americans a gadget that had been introduced last December in Japan — the Sony PlayStation Portable, hereinafter known as the PSP. The New York Times ponderously surveyed a New Marketing Trend. Sony had, it opined,

engaged in what has become a favorite tactic of marketers in various lines of business: hyping a new product by making it available when most people are in bed, and acting like those slumbering are missing out.

Retailing specialists note that the off-hour shopping extravaganza, at midnight or the crack of dawn, has been used to bring out cultish consumers for films (“Star Wars,” “The Passion of the Christ”), shoes (Air Jordan high-tops), video games (Halo 2) and books (Harry Potter books).

“It’s become a much more utilized marketing tool over the last three or four years,” said Wendy Liebmann, president of WSL Strategic Retail, a marketing consulting firm in New York. The message retailers want to send, she said, is: “This is for aficionados. If you’re serious, we’re serious.”

Sony said it hoped by the end of the weekend to sell the available one million units of the hand-held PSP, which lets people play games, watch movies and listen to music.

The good news is that this is one gadget that neither Quentin nor I are likely to be competitive about. I am still smarting, however, over his Mac Mini.