Friday, January 12, 2007

PlayStation 3 Supply Surpasses Demand

Last year, it took several months for the Xbox 360 to be readily available in retail stores. Chains such as Gamestop/ EB Games were still filling preorders well into 2006 (the system launched 11/21/2005), and it wasn’t until around March or April that someone could easily walk into a store and walk out with Microsoft’s next-generation console. Now Nintendo seems to be walking that path, with demand for the Wii still far exceeding the available stock. While this time the preorders were filled right away, people are still hunting and waiting in long lines and hoping to get lucky in acquiring the system.

It now appears, though, that Sony is having no such issues. A recent check with my local game store found that they had plenty of Playstation 3’s in stock, and that they weren’t exactly moving. My first thought was that Sony had caught up with production and was sending out greater numbers, but the store informed me that they were still getting the same shipments they’ve been getting all along (roughly 2 systems a week), but that with nobody coming in to purchase the console the stock is just building up.

The employees of that store and others report that while they’re still fielding a high number of Wii-related calls during each day, they can go an entire day without any inquiries at all about the PS3. One store showed me a scratch pad they kept by the phone one day, making marks for each Wii call and PS3 call they received. At the end of that day the Wii had gotten 75, while the PS3 came in at 2.

Stacks of PS3s are now gathering dust in stores, while the Wii is reportedly still sold out in most locations.

The other issue the store reported is the high number of returns on the Playstation 3. These customers, states my source, had in most cases purchased the consoles in the hopes of making a profit by reselling them online. A quick scan of Ebay, though, shows that this is no longer an option. The few PS3’s that are posted either have no bids at all, or are being sold for the retail price or even below (I saw one unopened 60gb unit with a Buy it Now price of $550, $50 below the retail price). So these people who had hoped to make some easy money are bringing back their purchases so they can at least break even.

One store that I talked to reported three consoles being returned in one day, while another said they had gotten four back over the course of the week after Christmas. These returns, in addition to the stock that is still being sent, adds up to a healthy stack of systems that the store says they just can’t move. They even remarked that they had more PS3’s in stock than they had Xbox 360’s.

Does this ominous start bode badly for Sony? While it is very early in the “console war”, many people expect the first several months to play out with shortages and high demand that the manufacturer just can’t keep up with. Now I’m talking to stores that wish they wouldn’t get any more consoles until they can actually move the ones they have sitting in their stockrooms.

Time will tell, of course, and it only takes one title to shift the winds in favor of one console or another. One employee laughingly told me that they had been sitting on a stack of GameCubes, both new and used, until Resident Evil 4 was released, and suddenly they couldn’t keep the system in stock, so it really does ultimately come down to the games.


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