PlayStation 5 launch in UK descends into chaos

The most eagerly anticipated UK console launch in years descended into chaos and acrimony on Thursday as retailers sold out of PlayStation 5 consoles almost immediately, leaving gamers fuming on social media or paying inflated prices on eBay.

“Me and my boyfriend have been up since 7.30. We tried Very, Currys, John Lewis, Game, Littlewoods and Amazon and failed with every one,” said Megan Nagel, a north London resident.

Ms Nagel said the item either did not appear, or was immediately described as “out of stock” on the websites of several retailers, including Amazon and Very.

“Overall, I feel like it would be easier to get one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets.”

Currys, part of the Dixons Carphone group, was due to launch PS5 sales at 9am, but put the launch back to 11am. By midday, it had admitted defeat and later confirmed that all of its available stock had been sold but said “there will be other chances in the lead-up to Christmas”.

Argos, another big seller of consumer electronics, said in a statement that pre-orders went live on its website last month and had sold out. “We’re sorry for any disappointment this may cause and are encouraging customers to check back regularly for updates on more stock.”

John Lewis said it had received plenty of stock “but as anticipated, the PS5 console has been incredibly popular with very large numbers of customers seeking to buy it and it sold out quickly”.

Game, part of Mike Ashley’s Frasers retail empire, was initially accepting PS5 orders for delivery in December. But it too ran out of stock.

Amarjit Uppal, of West Bromwich in the West Midlands, said he had spent hours trying multiple sites and had “experienced nothing but crashes”.

“Now I’ve just wasted over two hours in a [virtual] queue at Game only for it to be all sold out.”

Katie Cousins, gaming analyst at Shore Capital, said the launch was “always going to be a sellout”, given that seven years had elapsed since the PS4 went on sale.

“There’s also the Covid impact,” she added. “A lot of people have rediscovered gaming during the lockdowns.”

Sony faced questions this year about likely availability, given the disruptive effects of Covid-19 on its Asian manufacturing capacity. PS5’s launch is a big event for the company, whose marketing stunts include lighting up a Tokyo shrine in PlayStation colours and changing the London Underground logos at Oxford Circus station opposite rival Microsoft’s flagship store.

The company declined to comment.

Ms Cousins added that the Microsoft Xbox X and S consoles released over a week ago had also sold out quickly, but attracted less media attention — possibly because the Sony product had launched with a well-received Spiderman game.

The longer-term success of both systems will be judged not just by console sales, but by how many gamers sign up for subscription packages.

Many of those who did get PS5 consoles swiftly relisted them on eBay and other platforms at inflated prices, and found a ready market — on Thursday afternoon the £449 disc version was routinely selling for £800 or more with the digital version going for £600.

Ebay said its users were “generally free to list non-essential items at the price they want” but that sellers offering essential items “may not attempt to unreasonably profit” from increased demand or reduced supply.

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