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Lucky Few Land New Video Game Systems


Hundreds of parents and video game enthusiasts throughout Ventura County were on the hunt early Thursday to score one of the first copies of Sony's PlayStation2 consoles.

Circuit City in Ventura turned away more than 100 customers soon after it opened and sold out its modest inventory of the video game, which retails for a hefty $299.

"Sixteen customers were guaranteed a video game when they came in and purchased them," said Anna Gonzales, a customer service associate. "That was all we had to sell."

Customers camped out at the store for hours before it opened at 10 a.m. Those unable to buy one of the systems were given rain checks to purchase one when a new shipment arrives.

Ventura resident Kathy Grosser arrived at the Circuit City store on Mills Road at 7:15 a.m. to get one of the consoles as a going-away present for the males in her family before her clan relocates to Livermore.

Store personnel started handing out tickets shortly before 8 a.m., and Grosser scored the last ticket to buy the hot new toy, which plays both CDs and DVDs.

"I feel like Willy Wonka with the last golden ticket," she said. "That was me. My boys will be very excited."

Carol Fuller, corporate public relations manager for Toys R Us, said the company announced ahead of time that it would market its copies of PlayStation2 games on the first day by pre-sale only. She said the company did not experience the frenzy of customers outside their stores in Thousand Oaks and Ventura.

Even inclement weather couldn't short-circuit the excitement for some video game fans in the eastern part of the county. The line outside a Target in Simi Valley began to form an hour before midnight, as several dozen people camped on the store's sidewalk under an a store overhang.

They lounged in lawn chairs and zipped themselves into sleeping bags as rock music lulled them to sleep. It would still be several hours before the Cochran Street store opened at 8 a.m. and began selling its 50 PlayStations.

Simi Valley resident Carol Strong said she wanted one for her 13-year-old son.

"I did this for my daughter when the Cabbage Patch dolls came out, so shouldn't I do it for my son, too?," she asked. "Santa got all the credit back then. This time, I think I'll get the credit. This is all he wants for Christmas."

Several of those camped out were also Target employees, although they did not receive any special treatment.

Wendy Reed said her shift started at 9:30 a.m. and she had no qualms about joining the queue. The fitting-room worker and her husband, Doug, braved the chilly night for not one but two PlayStations. Reed said the first one is for her husband, the second belongs to the highest bidder on an Internet auction site.

Reed said she anticipated a long day at work after an even longer night outside.

"I work in the most boring section of the store, so I'll probably be falling asleep all day," she said.

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