Special: It's bedlam!
Unless you've been living under a rock for the last six months, I think everyone is well aware of the fact that there won't be very many PS3s to go around this November. But what will this consumer battlefield really
look like? And how can you secure yourself a PS3 without losing an arm (which you'll need to play your new beast of a console)? It's all numbers my friend, and within them you'll find a bleak, but not impossible, situation.
We've heard the overall numbers. We've heard the educated guesses of 6-15 consoles per store. And we've heard about demo units and possible shortages and ridiculous eBay auctions for a pre-order slip. But what will the real launch look like? Well, according to Sony, North America will receive 400,000 PS3s on "Day One". But what does this mean to you as an individual? For that, I decided to examine the launch numbers based on my home town, Rochester, NY.
Rochester, and the surrounding county, has a population of 735,343 people. This total places it number 53 on the list of largest U.S. urban areas. It's a fair sized city, but similar-sized urban areas are within driving distance for most of the country. So using Rochester as our base and using proportional population numbers, the Rochester area will receive a shipment of about 884 PS3s on launch day. But this number is not the true number as Sony Computer Entertainment America CEO Jack Tretton said 15,000 PlayStation 3 demonstration kiosks will be deployed to American and Canadian retailers over the holiday season. That 15,000 accounts for 3.75% of all the PS3s out there and will take 33 systems away from the available total. Another 27 consoles will be purchased online if the 2005 figures that state 3% of all retail sales occur online holds true.
Moving on to actual store numbers, Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world and they account for 8.5% of all retail sales in America. But according to a 2002 report in Wired, the retail giant accounted for 25% of all video game sales in America that year. With Wal-Mart's overall sales revenue climbing I think it's safe to assume that number has stayed the same. So 25% of the PS3s (221 systems) will be shipped to Wal-Mart's 4 stores, 2 Supercenters and 2 Sam's Club warehouses. Let's also assume that another 9 consoles, or one percent, will be acquired from the nebulous Other (i.e. contests, review systems, etc).
So with online shopping, demo kiosks and Wal-Mart out of the way, that's 290 systems. But what about the other 594? Those will be distributed among 15 EB Games/GameStop stores (which are already gone anway), 10 indie shops and 33 chain stores that deal in video games. This roughly comes out to about 10 systems per store, which seems to jibe with the pre-order numbers that have come in from line standers at EB and GameStop. While it might seem smart to stake out the indie stores, who knows if Sony will deem them worthy of carrying the PS3 on day one. No, it's all about the market share, so the chain stores will be the sweet spot for anyone who plans on camping out for a PS3 on November 17. But where to go?
Best Buy, Circuit City, KB Toys, Target and Toys R Us are out instantly. They're too obvious and the lines will far outstrip the 10 consoles per store. A better target would be CompUSA or K-Mart, a little more obscure and most people assume their game sections are unimpressive. But they will have PS3s on day one. Better yet are the even more obscure game sellers: BJ's, FYE! and Sears.
Many people forget that the warehouse clubs carry games and with their slightly older clientale they may not have the line that a Target or a Toys R Us would have. So, if you have a BJ's card, it is definitely an option. Furthermore, FYE! rarely advertises their game sales (instead focusing on movies and music), but they carry a good variety and being located only in malls gives them an advantage. Gamers will avoid GameStop and EB on launch day because they'll assume pre-orders are long gone (which they will be). But no one will be standing at FYE!
But the best bet for a PS3 system on launch day would have to be Sears. Sears is known for power tools, appliances and some electronics, but many people never venture into the small corner Sears has set aside for games. And they should because it's often filled with forgotten gems that are never sold because Sears is overlooked as a game seller. Camping out outside Sears may give away your location, but if you're first in line, who cares!
While these numbers focus on the Rochester area, the stores suggestions are universal, and the launch numbers will be similar for any similar-sized population center. So if you want to begin the hard, cold, expensive, and possibly bloody quest for a PS3, this is the way to go. And after you part ways with your $600 and receive a PS3, all of that confusion and chaos doesn't really matter anymore. Unless you plan on selling your new prize on eBay, in which case I suggest you should stay home and leave the most advanced system in the next-generation of games to the gamers.
After the chaos of the PS3 launch all around the country, Gaming Target reader Phil G. was kind enough to fill us in on what the launch in Rochester really
The only stores to get any PS3s were Target, Best Buy, Walmart and Circuit City. I think Sam's Club got 2 but thats unconfirmed. Sears I'm not sure of either. Kmart had 2 also.
Walmart had less than 10, and were giving out rainchecks up to 10. Not sure how many BB, Target and CC had, but it wasn't much over 10. ToysRus had 0. CompUSA had 0.
At Best Buy, they made people park anywhere but the plaza where the BB is. They were parked across the street and at Lowes, several stores down. They weren't allowing people to line up until a certain time. At that time, the crowd bum-rushed the door, breaking the sliding glass door off its mounting. Sheriffs were called with riot control pepper spray paintballs to subdue the crowd and make arrests. I wasn't there, but I find it ridiculous.
Instead I rolled by BJ's at 2 AM and saw two cars, with 3 colleged aged kids like myself sitting in their car. So I parked and set an alarm for 6 AM and settled down to take a nap. Apparantly that freaked them out so they got out to form a line, so I did also and introducted myself. Fortunately they were cool guys and actually gave me the scoop about BJ's: two of them spoke to two seperate managers, who confirmed they were getting 12 in that day. One even saw the computer screen with the SKU and price. Thats why they were waiting, and I joined them. So it was looking pretty good.
5 AM rolls around. A car drives over to us, "Hey, I work here, we didn't get any in. I just finished unloading the truck." so we tell him thanks and act like we're packing up, but we don't leave because there's one bit of advice to pay attention to on launch day: Don't believe anyone. A half hour later, another woman comes up in her car and tells us the same thing. We thank her and let her leave. The truth was only two hours away... we'd rough it out.
At 7 AM, a nice woman with some burly guy comes through the front of the store, opens the sliding glass door, and tells us, "Guys, we didn't get any in. Infact we don't even have any on order. I don't have the SKU or even the price. Sorry." We take this as a hint to leave, and go to our cars to wait till they actually open. Someone lied and we don't know if it was the manager the day before, the managers now, or Sony. At 7:45 we go back over as they're getting ready to open the store, and talk to another guy who tells us the same thing. Dejected, we decide to call it quits. ToysRus had none, CompUSA had none, Best Buy was already done, as was Target, so I retired to my bed.
Nothing gained, nothing lost (except some sleep) but it sucks to have a chance and go for it, only to be let down.
Looks like I was way off in my guesses, but thanks Phil and good luck on your next PS3 hunt.