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Retailers Brace for the PS3
posted by: Matt James
date posted: 09:35 AM Sun Jun 11th, 2006
last revision: 10:32 AM Sun Jun 11th, 2006

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Click to read.Launch time has been a tumultuous time for all involved for sometime now. It is obvious why it might be hectic for those launching a system. More and more, with each generation, the launch of a new game console has become a real headache for retailers and gamers. By now we are all familiar with stories of people camping out for PS2s and more recently Xbox 360s. What people probably think less about is the extra strain launch shortages cause for retailers, who must deal with both angry gamers and corporate interests.

If the positive buzz around Nintendo\'s Wii by the gaming press and its strong showing at this years E3 are any indication, then there should be a healthy demand once the Wii launches. But Nintendo has promised six million Wii units in the first six months of the console\'s lifespan. That\'s probably not enough to completely stop shortages, if the system is as popular as it looks to be, but will be the largest launch roll-out we\'ve seen so far. The event that really has retailers worrying at this point is Sony\'s impending launch of the Playstation 3.

Early PS2 shortages are legendary, the first time that we saw such huge demand for a console and such a low number of units at launch. And the rumors are flying wildly that the PS3 might be the toughest system to get your hands on at launch to date. Add the rumors to Sony\'s constantly fluid launch date and an overall lack of consumer confidence about what they will actually be able to deliver, and retailers are already getting skittish when it comes to the PS3.

Of course, that ignores the dual-configuration status of the system, something many retailers were not excited to hear about from Microsoft at the launch of the Xbox 360. Of course, compared to the PS3, the Xbox 360 configuration differences are very easy for customers to grasp and retail employees to explain. Sony\'s PS3 systems have many differences between them, not so easily summed up as, \"This one comes without the hard drive, this one comes with it.\"

In spite of the relatively clear difference between Xbox 360 systems, we at GamesFirst! still heard about gamers receiving the wrong system when they went to pick up their launch-day preorders: Some retail outlets mixed up SKUs (the numbers used to track products in retails stores) while others suffered from employee ignorance (not all clerks realized the difference between the \"white\" and \"green\" versions).

Sony\'s multiple configuration launch is sure to create at least a few headaches for retail workers struggling to help moms, dads and grandparents understand the difference between 20GB and 60GB hard drives. Imagine explaining to the same group of non-gamer customers the relative value of Memory Stick support or HDMI connections. Retail employees have their work cut out for them this Fall.

An internal Gamestop email expressed concern over how many PS3s their chain (which is the largest videogame retailer and includes Ebgames as well) would have available. A local store that received between 50 and 100 Xbox 360s at launch is expecting to get no more than 20 PS3s.

Hastings, a major retailer in the northwest, and based out of Texas, has opted not to reserve PS3s at all. Out of fairness, it should be noted that this is not merely a response to the rumored PS3 shortages. It is, in a big way, a reaction to Microsoft\'s launch of the Xbox 360. For many retailers who realize they will sell out of these new systems on launch day regardless of whether or not they\'v taken preorders, refusing to reserve systems is an obvious time and headache saver that eliminates the need for such concerted launch-day planning. (Many retail outlets implement special launch-day schedules, policies and procedures to deal with the massive paperwork and demand of launch-day preorders.)

Still, one thing is for certain; anyone looking to cross PS3 off of the Christmas list this year is going to be in for a fight of mid-80s Cabbage Patch Kid proportions. Once again, retailers will be stuck officiating, but this year the rules are a little different.

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