Let's be honest: it was hard to know what to expect from the UK launch of PlayStation 3. It's been a hard road for Sony - why, it was only last week that the police were raining on their planned midnight parade, worried about those pesky muggers seeing PS3 launch events as an ideal opportunity to further their careers.
HMV and GAME went for early morning 'breakfast launches' instead, inviting gamers to swap their usual fried eggs and bacon butties for, well, a copy of Virtua Tennis 3 and bacon butties.
But Virgin Megastore, Sony's official retail partner, was determined to stick with the midnight timing - even if that meant turning their Oxford Street branch into a sort of mini Glastonbury. With better toilets and a lot more DVDs.
As it turned out, only a handful of people actually took the opportunity to sleep over in the shop. And if you were one of those who walked into the shop at 11pm last night, you might well have thought that Sony and Virgin had gotten it wrong. There were just over 100 people in the queue - a far cry from the long line which snaked around the block at last December's Wii launch.
But there are different circumstances at work here. To begin with, there's the high price point for PlayStation 3 - more than double that of the Wii (unless you're buying it on eBay, possibly).
Then there's the issue of stock. At launch it was clear that the Wii was in high demand and short supply, while Sony promised 1 million PS3 units for Europe on day one in a bid to ensure the less organised or still unsure would be able to pick up a console without pre-ordering.
And, of course, there's the console itself. Nintendo banged on about the fact that the Wii was designed to be a games machine, pure and simple. Sony has been waffling about PS3 as an all-round entertainment device, offering not just good games and a motion-sensing controller but a Blu-ray player, high definition visuals, a unique online service, multimedia functionality and, when combined with PSP, the option to have a wing mirror in a racing game.
The fact is, PlayStation 3 is a machine that's unique in terms of price point, stock supplies and capabilities, all of which have reached levels never seen before. That's not just compared to Wii, but also Xbox 360, PlayStation 2 and even PlayStation 1. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the launch of PlayStation 3 was also unique, in more ways than one.
It's true to say that Virgin Megastore felt strangely empty when you first walked in last night. It's a huge store, and despite the 100-strong queue and entertainment in the form of large screen TVs, a DJ and "B-boys", there was a definite sense of space. But there was no denying it - at least not after you'd been there for half an hour or so - you could also sense the excitement.
No, there weren't any groups of teenagers chanting the platform holder's name. No, there weren't any celebrities expressing their newfound love for gaming. And no, there weren't queues around the block. But there were gamers who had waited a long time for the arrival of PS3 - not necessarily for 36 hours inside the shop, but for months after the console hit the US and Japan.
Sony played the hour before midnight carefully, with a little something to keep the crowd going at regular intervals. First, a laminate number was picked at random, and the owner was told he'd be getting his PlayStation 3 for free. Later, it was confirmed that the first 150 people to buy a console would also get a free copy of Resistance: Fall of Man. But it wasn't until that 11.40pm Sony UK boss Ray Maguire came forward to address the crowd, and Sony brought out the really big guns.
Standing in front of a large flatscreen television, Maguire said, "This is a 46-inch Bravia W series. It's an award-winning flat panel. And do you know what the good news is guys? I'm going to give you one free."
The immediate response from the crowd was a mixture of cheers and confusion - a sort of collective, "Whooo... Ooo... Er, What?" But yes, Maguire said, Sony was giving away 125 top-of-the-range televisions worth around GBP 2000 each, adding, "Every single one of you in this queue is going to get one." Then came the proper cheers, followed by big old whoops and applause. This wasn't a free game, a free controller, a free HDMI cable; this was a real reward for sticking with Sony. Worth two thousand pounds.
The buzz continued to grow as the news sunk in further and midnight drew nearer. By 11.55pm the crowd was in position by the tills, while a large group of photographers competed for the best spot (Pat had the biggest camera though, obviously). Then came the ten-second countdown, more inevitable cheers, and the moment when Europe's next-gen console battle officially began. And 125 people decided they might get Sky HD after all.
The first person in the queue was 17 year-old Ritatsu Thomas, who arrived at the store at 5am on Wednesday. He said he'd only had around five hours sleep the previous night, and was tired of answering questions from the media for nearly two days. So was it worth the wait?
"It's been a very strange experience but there have been a lot of highlights, like being interviewed by the BBC, and making new friends... So it's been a good experience." Not all good, though: "I don't know if I'd do this again if it wasn't outside. Because inside the shop, it's a hot spot for the press to harass me with constant questions."
We decided to leave Thomas to take his PS3, free TV and courtesy Hummer ride home at this point, and turn to the second in line - Shadie Chatfield, 19 years old and a self-confessed Sony fangirl.
"It's been very tiring, but it's been a really good experience - I've really enjoyed it. Apparently we are the first people in the world to sleep in a Virgin Megastore, they've never allowed it before, so that's a cool thing. They treated us so well," she said.
Meanwhile Chatfield's boyfriend, Anthony Brophy - who had waited in the queue with her - was across the other side of the store talking to Big Phil Harrison, who made a surprise appearance at the event, perhaps to the disappointment of those who'd been hoping for Ian Wright and Nell McAndrew. "My girlfriend loves PlayStation, and she thinks you're amazing. Would you sign her console box?" Harrison, smiling and looking a bit surprised at the whole thing, replied, "I'd be delighted."
Although Harrison was a little more reluctant to talk to the press, Maguire had plenty to say.
"The launch has been great, considering that we weren't allowed to let people queue up outside and there were loads of restrictions," for example.
"People waiting for 36 hours and sleeping overnight is absolutely unbelievable - it shows the affinity people have for the brand, and it's really humbling."
Maguire's Sony UK chum, PR boss David Wilson, was on hand to address the issue of stock supply - and the suggestions from some critics that having consoles on shop shelves at the end of a midnight launch event indicates that no one really wants one, actually.
"We've got more stock for this launch than we've ever had before for a launch. A lot of retailers are going on the record saying for the first time, along with really good pre-orders, they'll actually have free stock on shelves for people to walk in and buy - and that's a great message," he said.
"It's always great to say, 'We sold out.' But it's probably indicative of the fact you're not being very good with your supply.
"With our stock it's less tempting for less scrupulous people to exploit the situation, either by people at retailers forcing people to take loads of games - as happened at the PS2 launch - or scalpers putting them on eBay and taking a huge premium."
It wasn't just present-day Sony executives who made an appearance at the launch. Also there to show his support was old hand Chris Deering, ex-SCEE boss, former head of Sony Europe and the man responsible for establishing the PlayStation brand on this continent more than a decade ago. Deering retired from Sony in late 2005 - but now, experiencing the PlayStation 3 launch, did he wish he was back in the fold?
"Feels like I never left," he replied with a chuckle. "There's the same enthusiasm and excitement I remember with PSone, when I was in this very store playing Tekken with Richard Branson at the launch. I won, believe it or not, much to my own amazement - I wasn't even trying to beat him, but he was so bad... PS3 is great, and good things come to those who wait."
And according to Chris "Branson beater" Deering, Sony's new console has been well worth the wait. "If you make the analogy with airplane engines, everything up to now has been a propeller plane - and this is the first jet," he said.
"I think people will come to understand just how much horsepower exists under the bonnet of PS3, the versatility, the interactive use, the entertainment use..." he added mixed-metaphorically.
"But never forget that PlayStation is about games, and the games are going to be unbelievable."
Deering wasn't the only one talking up the capabilities of PS3, or remembering console launches past. Said Harrison, "I've seen PlayStation 1 and PlayStation 2 launched on Oxford Street, but this is the most meaningful for me personally, because I think it's so important not just for our industry but for UK consumers - the fact that they're going to get the best machine with the best software support, the most Network service and the firmware update...
"They had to wait, and I feel really bad about that. But I'm hoping we can make it up to them with the quality of software that we've got coming out."
Amongst those who had to wait was the girl who wanted Harrison to sign her console, Shadie Chatfield - and he naturally obliged. But after the experience of spending 36 hours camping out in a shop to get her hands on a new console, will she ever do it again?
"This is brilliant, so yes, I think I will. For PlayStation 4..."
But that's as much as ten years away, according to Harrison, and right now even the future of PS3 is unclear. Sony has pushed a lot of boundaries, taken significant risks and been given a fair old kicking, and there's work yet to be done.
In the end, last night console's launch was impossible to predict, and it turned out to be a launch unlike any other. Now the battle really begins - now, it's time for Sony to convince us that PlayStation 3 is a console unlike any other.