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PS5 launch – retailers struggle with huge demand under pandemic restrictions

Today the UK finally caught up with its US cousins after a week existing in a bizarre hinterland, where consumers could buy games and peripherals, but not the console itself.

Whether last week’s US launch drove up awareness of the already red-hot PS5 is hard to say, but it was certainly cut-throat online to secure the final few consoles. An inevitability given that traditional ‘show up early and queue’ methods for the last few available units couldn’t be counted on due to pandemic restrictions on ‘non-essential’ retail.

Curry’s was the first to slip-up, with consumers finding they could purchase consoles from the retailer well before its virtual opening time of 9am. The company cancelled all such orders, refunded money, and then eventually called off the whole thing. Whether there was any stock to sell remains a mystery.

GAME moved back its 9am virtual opening to 11am initially and then to 1pm. Customers quickly reported long queue times to get on the site, although stock was then available in bundle form.

However,simultaneously, GAME’s delivery of pre-orders came unstuck. It blamed delivery partner Yodel for being unable to deliver all pre-orders today – as reported by VGC. Yodel fired back that it wasn’t its fault and identified a middle-man fulfilment firm: GFS as being fully aware of the issue. Long story short, some consumers are still waiting for their consoles, and neither GAME nor Yodel’s reputation is likely to be unsullied.

Amazon, which did have some delayed deliveries on Xbox launch day seemed to be keeping up its end, and had stock available to buy around lunchtime too. However like many other retailers, the site struggled to keep up with the demands of those trying to lad the page to order, let alone in terms of actual stock.

Launch day hiccups under such circumstances are inevitable, and will be quickly forgotten by most as their consoles arrive. Even in the best scenario of a normal year, demand was going to hugely outstrip supply. And given the year everyone has had, asking Sony or the struggling retailers to do better in terms of stock or execution seems in rather poor taste. The fact that there are PS5s at all seems something to grateful for.

Another big issue, in the eyes of the public, are scalpers buying up consoles and selling them on at high prices. While this may only be a small fraction of the total available, it’s very visible and creates a very negative feeling. It would certainly do the industry good to attempt to tackle this issue, but with it only rearing its head once in a blue moon, it’s unlikely to be high on anyone’s priority list.

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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