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Get in Line: PlayStation 2 Hits the Street Thursday

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RALEIGH — With the holiday shopping season still weeks away, the race is on to get one of the most hyped toys of the year.

TheSony PlayStation 2(PS2) were released Thursday, and stores expected a mad rush when the doors opened for business.

At a Target store in Raleigh, 45 of the PS2 units are stacked up in an office. Frank Kloeber, a store team leader, says security is tight around the room.

"I lock the door every day," he says. "We count them every morning and count them every night. I feel like I'm in jail. It's like a safe-deposit box back here."

The store is fielding about 40 calls an hour from people wanting to buy the $300 machines. Store staffers believe the 45 units will evaporate within minutes of the store's 8 a.m. opening.

Once they are gone, Target says it expects another shipment of 15 PS2s in about two weeks.

Sony had planned to distribute a million units. They later reduced that estimate to 500,000, and they recently cut the figure again.

Many stores are offering the systems only to people who pre-paid for the chance to enjoy the first PlayStation 2's in the country.

Franklin Crawford works for a local gaming company. He says he has already preordered the PS2, so he is guaranteed to get one.

"Since they are rather hard to come by, if you didn't preorder then you're pretty much getting them without some major miracle," he says. "I'll probably have a lot of people at my house."

For everyone else, the systems will be extremely hard to find. Many retailers are getting smaller shipments for the release. Some Circuit City and Wal-Mart stores say they have only about 20 units on hand.

Target's Kloeber says PS2 brings back bad memories for retailers.

"The only thing I can equate it to is Tickle-Me Elmo," he says. "That fiasco a couple of years ago where people were lined up at the door, just waiting to get in to get that Tickle-Me Elmo home for Christmas.

"Hopefully, it won't be as bad as that, but it's gearing up to be that way."

Microsoft and Nintendo will be putting out their own high-powered video game system next year.

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Brian Shrader, Web Editor

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