What is it about the launch of video game consoles the inspires such bumbling incompetence in retailers? Last year, lots of places got into trouble by preselling more Xbox 360s than they could get, but everyone assumed that the same thing wouldn’t be happening this year with the Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii. But with less than 3 week remaining until both consoles ship, there have already been a number of problems with preorders. (More after the jump.)
Even when things go “smoothly” it isn’t pretty. EBGames/Gamestop and Toys R Us announced ahead of time that they would be taking preorders, and people literally camped out hours (or in some cases DAYS) ahead of time, just to get a preorder. My Toys R Us decided to have a “raffle” to decide who of the approximately 250 people who showed up on 9 o’clock on a Sunday morning would get one of the 4 PS3 and 10 Wii preorders they had available. Admittedly, a fair number of the people there were trying to get Tickle-Me Elmo dolls, but still consumer interest is very strong.
Amazon.com has “accidentally” opened up preorders for the Wii twice now for short periods. I was able to get in on one of these, and I was glad to find out that the preorders will be honored. Not so classy were places like Tiger Direct and Frys.com, who cancelled orders for the PS3 and Wii because they were supposedly not meant to be offered yet (Tiger Direct was even charging a $100 surcharge over the retail price, and Frys.com was only sellling the Wii in a bundle totalling almost $700.)
And most recently, a listing for the PS3 appeared on Bestbuy.com late Friday evening, only to be pounced on by gamers all over the country. It later came to light that it was probably not an intentional preorder on Best Buy’s part and there is a good chance the orders (including mine) will be cancelled. We’re waiting to hear about it today. [UPDATE: Best Buy canceled everyone’s preorders and gave us a $10 off coupon for our trouble. Oh well, better than nothing.]
It’s looking more and more like if you want a PS3 right after launch day, you’ll either have to camp out in front of a store or pay exhorbitant prices to eBay scalpers. The PS3 product page at Amazon.com has a discussion page filled with desperate people who have been there fruitlessly refreshing the page for weeks. It’s looking like Amazon may not even do preorders (and given how badly they’ve done up until now, this may not be a bad idea).
The Wii situation is a bit better, since Nintendo doesn’t have the kind of shortages that Sony has had to deal with, but I imagine it will still be hard to find right after launch. If you’re looking for either of these systems, I wish you luck.