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Rockville (United States) (AFP) – The wait nearly over, Casey Karch was ready to get his hands on one of the first PlayStation 4 game consoles set to be released Friday.

Karch, a resident of the US capital Washington, was number 21 on the list of those having pre-ordered the first 100 of the new Sony consoles delivered to GameStop, a retailer in Rockville, Maryland.

“There is a first-day magic about it,” Karch said. “It’s always great to be one of the first.”

Karch was at the store at 9:00 pm (0200 GMT Friday) but had to wait until midnight, when dozens of stores around the United States could release the new game device from the Japanese electronics giant.

The retailer allowed consumers to place orders online and pay for the console between 6:00 pm and midnight, then return for their box.

“I’m going to go home and play (the new edition of the game) Killzone, and then sleep a few hours,” he told AFP.

Sony is counting on fans like Karch to help win over gamers in its fierce battle with Microsoft, set to release its updated Xbox One console next week.

Some buyers in Rockville are loyal PlayStation gamers, concerned that the console may sell out during the busy holiday shopping season.

“I’ve had the PS1, the PS2 and the PS3,” said Bethesda, Maryland resident Jesse Rosario, who was number 31 on the list and had purchased a new “Call of Duty” game along with an NBA basketball game for the PS4.

“I grew up with it, so I love the experience.”

Asked why he ordered for the first day, Rosario said, “It’s the PlayStation 4, it’s going to sell out.”

Others chose PlayStation over Xbox amid concern about an always-on Internet connection and camera, even though Microsoft sought to reassure buyers they would not be monitored.

“I don’t want a camera on me. I’m not into that,” said Washington resident Chris Jones, one of the PS4 buyers.

With a small child at home, Jones said he would only play games loaded from a disc, not online.

“Not everyone is friendly online,” he told AFP.

The successor to the PlayStation 3 makes its debut in North America, hitting Europe later in the month.

It comes amid intense competition among console makers and with gamers also turning to smart phones, tablets, free-to-play, social and online games.

The PS4 is being released seven years after its predecessor and a week ahead of the release of a new-generation Xbox One.

The PS4 is priced at $399, while Xbox One will have a $499 price.

Along with building more powerful computing engines into consoles for cinematic graphics, engineers built in social features and took lessons from smart phone and tablet games that are making inroads.

“Today’s launch of PS4 represents a milestone for all of us at PlayStation, our partners in the industry, and, most importantly, all of the PlayStation fans who live and breathe gaming every day,” said Andrew House, head of Sony Computer Entertainment, in a statement.

“With unprecedented power, deep social capabilities, and unique second screen features, PS4 demonstrates our unwavering commitment to delivering phenomenal play experiences that will shape the world of games for years to come.”

Sony also announced it would make available for streaming on the PS4 its vast library of film titles, and launched a cloud-based digital music subscription service.

The “Music Unlimited” service will allow gamers to create their own soundtracks for their games.

“By far the biggest request from our core gamers was in-game music playback, and now they can create playlists tailored to their style of gameplay,” said Sony vice president Michael Aragon.

A forecast by the research firm Gartner shows game console sales of hardware and software are likely to grow to $44 billion worldwide in 2013 from $37 billion last year, helped in part by the new consoles.

Even with competition from new formats, some new console games have been huge hits. Grand Theft Auto V raked in $1 billion in sales in three days on the streets and “Call of Duty: Ghosts” brought in $1 billion in sales to retailers in one day.

AFP Photo/Paul J. Richards

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