Late at night on Monday, November 21st 2005, many people stood in line at the Best Buy in Lynnwood, Washington. Some had staked out their mark on the sidewalk days before, camping out for the long haul. Others arrived earlier that day…
Other parties were going on around Seattle, and Bill Gates himself was at the Bellevue, Washington store to hand out new Xboxes to the hundreds of patient fans. The night air was unusually foggy and cold for Seattle, and most of the squatters came prepared, either with portable heaters, makeshift fires, or even staying in a running car. It seemed like a non-stop party, as some hooked up Xbox games to a TV, swiping electricity and Wi-Fi access from Best Buy themselves!
Before one could even hope to get their hands on a shiny new Xbox 360, they had to get a reserve ticket from the Best Buy staff. Nearly every ticket had been distributed, but I managed to get the very last one. Best Buy staff would come around every few hours verifying these temporary tickets, and if you weren’t there, then you were crossed off the list. Official Xbox reserve tickets would be distributed around 5:00am the next morning, so everyone was sure to still be freezing in line as the temperature steadily dropped throughout the night.
Everyone had an interesting story, and there was a definite sense of brotherhood, almost like a made-for-TV holiday Disney movie. Everyone was there for the same purpose, and everyone was friendly and happy to share their experiences. Some people took orders from the line for neighborhood McDonalds before the drive-thru closed for the night. What else was there to do? No one was going anywhere.
One interesting group of people had camped out since Sunday evening, bringing with them tents, patio furniture, food, camping equipment: and of course the necessary cell phones, laptops, TVs and Xbox consoles. They were from the Maple Park Lutheran Church and were there with members of their youth group. According to Nathaniel Oakland (one of their youth leaders), not only was it a great excuse to go camping, but they were scoring new consoles for their organization, hoping to bring the joy of the new Xbox 360 to teenagers that otherwise could not afford to play them. They have even hosted Xbox “link-parties” where their members brought in nearly 20 Xboxes to play Halo and other multi-player games together.
The leader of their group, Lars Coleman, was first in line, and staked his claim the previous Sunday with a camping tent and a makeshift poster – “The line starts behind the guy with the cowboy hat”. They frequently went into the store to use the bathroom and play with the Xbox 360 kiosk.