Throngs have mobbed stores to buy Sony's eagerly-awaited PlayStation 3 from New York to San Francisco as the video game console finally made its US retail debut.
The long line of bleary-eyed customers who had been waiting for days outside the flagship PlayStation store in San Francisco finally made their way to cash registers with their prized consoles shortly after the stroke of midnight.
The console's long-delayed release comes amid a fierce battle for video game supremacy between Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo, and with the Christmas holiday just over five weeks away.
Earlier, Sony Computer Entertainment America vice president Jack Trenton, flanked by security guards, unlocked the back of a half-filled tractor-trailer and held a box aloft for the roaring crowd outside the San Francisco store.
As workers carted cases of consoles into the San Francisco PlayStation store, strobe lights flashed and a large digital clock counted down the minutes to the midnight (0800 GMT Friday) launch.
A similarly theatrical debut was played out at the PlayStation store in New York City.
More than 1,000 people watched by security guards waited in a queue outside the San Francisco store as the sun set on Thursday.
Crowds of gamers and profiteers eager to get their hands on Sony's new PlayStation 3 video game console laid siege to US electronics stores in the days leading to its Friday retail debut.
Sony was forced to delay the global launch of the PS3 by about six months until this November due to problems with the high-definition DVD player, giving the Xbox 360 a one-year head start.
The Japanese company pushed back the rollout again until March 2007 in Europe as it grappled with production problems.
The console flew off the shelves when it made its debut in Japan last weekend.
Another top rival, Nintendo, launches its new Wii console in the United States on Sunday for 249.99 dollars and in Japan on December 2.
One version of the PlayStation 3 has a 20-gigabyte hard drive and is priced at 500 dollars and the second is a 600-dollar model with a 60-gigabyte hard drive.
PlayStation 3 consoles feature Internet browsers, wireless controllers with motion-sensing capabilities, and Blu-ray DVD readers that make game play akin to controlling characters in animated films.
Sony said that approximately 400,000 of the consoles would be available at US stores on Friday and a million by the end of the year.
Bidding for PlayStation 3 consoles at Internet auction site eBay drove prices to the 2,000-dollar range on Thursday. Rumours abounded of people offering as much as 10,000 dollars for consoles.