Last year on November 22nd, while many gamers were gnashing their teeth and shaking their fists at EB Games, GameStop, Best Buy and Circuit City, I was home by 9:30 AM setting up my Gamertag on my newly acquired Xbox 360. Was I smarter than the rest? Not really. God definitely interceded. (And yes, I know it’s a material object, but this is my passion and He defintiely made a way.) Anyhow, I digress…. this November presents an even bigger challenge. The PlayStation 3 will probably be the most sought after item this holiday season. And a lot of kids are going to be crying on December 25 when they look under the tree and see EB Games Gift Cards instead of PlayStation 3 boxes bundled with apologetic promises of, “…we’ll get you your PlayStation, honey… just as soon as they have ’em, OKAY?!!!” But there’s still time to act and if you move NOW (actually now is even a bit late) you might end up scoring a system after all.
1. When it comes to retail, smaller is better. – Probably the best advice I can offer is the advice that scored me the Xbox 360 last year. If you shop at a mall for any reasonable amount of time, I’m sure you’re familiar with those “mall-based Music CD and DVD stores” (that have to be on their last legs in light of competition from online music sales.) Well, I used to laugh at FYE and Sam Goody… that was until last November. After having waited until August to pre-order my Xbox 360 (more on that in a bit) I was hurting. November 22 was coming and I had no security that I’d be able to get my hands on a system. That was until I strolled on a whim into one of those mall music stores a few days before the 360 launch and desperately asked the cashier, “So what are the chances that I’ll be able to get a system before 2006?” The attendant kinda laughed, but the owner overheard me. He hold me to wait for him while he dealt with another customer. After he was done, he told me to come back on launch day at 8AM. I begged him to take my name and address, but he just told me to show up at 8AM. (Ed note: I was inside the mall at 5AM with the guy who cleans the floors. That’s what you call hardcore.) So I showed up as promised and long story short, I came home with a system that day.
My point is that smaller retail stores can be a great untapped resource. And for a few reasons. First, the store only made me buy one game in addition to the system. Many retailers don’t allow you to buy systems without also picking up a bunch of unneccessary additional peripherals. Secondly, even though these stores have a smaller allocation of units, many people don’t consider these stores on launch day. (I know I didn’t.) And because everyone is crowding around Best Buy and Circuit City, you probably have a much better chance of scoring a system. And the reasons are many more than this…. less risk of theft (because of the smaller crowd), less competition for launch titles, etc. Bottom line, if you’re looking to get a PS3 this winter and you haven’t been able to pre-order a system yet, this might be your best bet.
2. Online – quick, easy, and less hazardous to your health. – I often talk to friends about the most hassle free launch day I ever had — the Xbox launch in November of 2001. Did I have to fight among the huddled masses for a system or wait on long lines? Nope. The UPS guy actually woke me up, I signed for the system and I was up and running within minutes. These solutions are a bit scarce and the chances are that you’ll be forced to buy at least two additional games and at least one more controller (and at $60 per game and $40 per controller, that should bring you right up to around $800 bucks with the shipping and tax.) However, you may have no other choice and it’s definitely a lot better than taking a day off from work and waiting in a line with no guarantee of coming home with a system.
Almost every brick-and-mortar store has an online presence that stocks separately its retail counterpart. During the Xbox 360 launch, WalMart.com created a stir when as new stock would arrive, the site would show up as having systems for sale — that is, for about a half hour until they’d sell out. Same with Bestbuy.com, CircuitCity.com and several others that carry consoles. Also, don’t forget the online only stores. Amazon.com and Buy.com are two of the biggest. Amazon in particular is known for having system pre-orders and they replenish their stock pretty regularly. (Amazon just sold out their Nintendo Wii anticipated pre-order stock last week. I would imagine that the PlayStation pre-ordering has to be coming within the next few weeks.)
Incidentally, there are a number of smaller online retailers that come highly reccomended. I haven’t done business with them before, but Lik-Sang.com is well known for selling imports and having access to launch systems. I’m certain that if you check message boards, you may be able to find other small online retailers that are selling systems as well.
3. Camp out early…like really early. – Most folks wait until the buzz begins the night before the launch (in this case, November 16). What makes this launch a little weird is that it’s happening on a Friday. (The 360 launch was on a Tuesday last year). There’s always something special in the air that brings out the worst in folks on a Friday. If launch day history holds true, November 17 should prove to have an extra special kinda crazy in the air. Knowing this, if you’re still crazy enough to camp out, I’d suggest that you read my guide to launch day camp-outs. To start, get ready to go to stores today and ask questions. Also, better put in for a few days from work now. If it were me and I didn’t want to waste my time, I’d probably consider lining up on Tuesday….Wednesday at the absolute latest. (Hey — I hear you judging us out there! But take a second to think about it — people lined up for Star Wars months before the release and that was shite and those folks had nothing to show for it!)
4. “I’ve got friends in high places….” – This is a lot less of an advantage now than it used to be, but it’s always good to have a “friend on the inside.” This can come in a number of different forms. Most people immediately think of this as “the cousin that works in the stockroom at Circuit City.” However, in light of negative press that Best Buy and other retailers received for their handling of the Xbox 360 stock allotment, managers will be much tighter on how many (if any) systems are allowed to employees.
The best way to utilize this to your advantage is to patronize a store regularly and make it known to the folks that work there that you appreciate being considered for new items. This is especially true of the Mom and Pop shops. If you’re a regular customer, they see you as someone who will not only buy a system, but who will be back 20-40 more times over the next 4 years buying games and accessories. It’s a bit late now, but form a relationship with several stores to increase your chances of scoring a system during future launches. Perhaps you won’t get a system on launch day, but if you have someone on the inside, maybe they’ll call you when the Fed Ex guy rolls a dolly in the store with “Sony” branded boxes on it.
In the case of stores that use the pre-ordering system (basically EB Games and GameStop), if you’re close to someone who works at the store, perhaps you can convince them to call you when the store starts taking pre-orders?
Small side “rant”: <rant> The GameStop / EB Games empire is the one case where it means almost nothing to be a loyal customer. Over the years, they’ve become greedy. The worst thing that could have ever happened was for both of those companies to merge. Moreover, the employees are undertrained. And right now the rumor is that they’re planning to try to get fat at the promise of system shortages…. kinda like the oportunistic idiot who sells water for $50 a jug because there was a hurricane and he has a few gallons. I strongly urge gamers to find other places to spend your gaming dollars. These folks don’t respect us. </rant>
5. ….or perhaps, be that friend in high places. – Again, working at a store doesn’t offer the privileges it once did. But I’d guess that if you’re a student and have some time after class and on the weekend (especially after the launch and into the holiday season) working at a Best Buy or a Circuit City for some extra dollars might not hurt your chances of scoring a system. You’d certainly have the inside track if system shipments come in during the weeks after the launch.
6. EB Games/GameStop? Reserve a game…any game…now. – I heard a few rumors indicating that people who pre-order PS3 games with EB Games or GameStop will be among the first to receive a call when the systems are available for pre-order. Whether the rumor about only selling pre-orders to people who trade in $50 worth of old games is true or not, make a trip to the store today and plunk down the $5 for any of the anticipated launch titles (Resistance Fall of Man and Genji are two that are almost guaranteed to be on shelves day one.) Pre-order at a few different locations for safety. You can always get your five bucks back or spend it on another game. And by dropping that Lincoln, you might secure yourself a call once the pre-ordering begins. (And if you get that call — don’t dally. Run to the store to pre-order your system.)
7. EB/GameStop? (Part Deux) — Watch. Your. E-mail. (And have $50 in trade-ins ready.) – On the GameStop and EB Games websites, they have a sign up list for being notified as soon as they decide how they’re going to screw us on launch day. E-mail is free. Put your name on the list. Now. And as soon as you get that e-mail confirmation that they’re taking pre-orders, my suggestion is to treat it as if your wife called and told you that she was going into labor. Make a beeline for the store. The higher up your name is on the list, the better your chances. And if this $50 trade in rumor for the right to pre-order is true, put at least that many games in your trunk. (Hey – you can buy those games back again anywhere. As much as it blows that they’re trying to use this as an opportunity to drag used games out of your closed, the systems will be in short supply. People will probably be paying $2000-$5000 for one on Ebay. And speaking of the good folks at Ebay….
8. Option #1 for the rich and truly desperate: Ebay.com – The sad thing about this whole “console shortage” business is the same tragedy that befalls the concert ticket scene: people who have no desire to play PS3 games or who don’t even like Coldplay are going out of their way to get access to our passions and then sell them back to us at a premium. (And this could be avoided if console companies would just listen to me.) The higher the cost, the higher the profit. Hopefully Sony will be able to replenish retail channel’s stock quickly, but considering the fact that they’ve cancelled the European launch, I’m sure that the flow of systems is going to be slow — particularly as we get closer to the holiday season in the U.S.
Expect to pay well into the $1000 range for bundles (or possibly even a grand for a system sans-games) and higher. If you take a peek on Ebay now, they already have some opportunistic folks who are offering to sell you a PS3 — even though shipping allotments haven’t been made available to most of the major retailers. Do you want to take a chance on losing your hard earned money to a guy from Wisconsin who says that “your system is ‘gauranteed’ [sic] on November 17th”. At least if you wait on line in the cold for two days, you are truly guaranteed to come home with either your new system or your $600. But for the folks to whom money is a small concern (and who have it in abundance) this is an option.
9. Option #2 for the rich and exceptionally desperate: Book your trip to San Francisco – This should be an easier option for my friends on the left coast, but for everyone else, it’s going to be a struggle to get to San Franciso (not to mention the cost of staying in that expensive town.) However, if there’s one place in the U.S. that is certain to have the most PlayStation 3s on November 17, it’s Sony’s own store in San Franciso — The Metreon. This has been the site of movie premieres and recent Sony console launches for the PlayStation 2 and the PlayStation Portable. If you want to make sure that you’re sure that you’re sure…. this would be the place to go. Of course there’s the matter of flying out there. (I guess you would save money on a hotel since you’d be going directly to the Metreon to stand on line. But of course, once you have a system, there’s the chore of either shipping the system back home or somehow getting it on the plane. (And by the way, I worked in baggage services. You definitely don’t want to “check the box in”. Even if it’s we’ll disguised.) Of course this is the most ridiculous option for 70% of the folks in the U.S., but while we’re covering all bases, I thought I would offer that to the desperate and to my homies who live on the left coast.
Well, there you have it. The completely unofficial guide to getting a PlayStation 3 on launch day. Yeah — it stinks pretty bad that we have to jump through all these hoops to play games. But rather than complain about the situation, I guess you figure it could be worse. The European gaming community got shut out completely until next year. And even in Japan, Sony stiffed their countrymen at launch by giving them only 100,000 systems — a quarter of what they’re launching in North America. So at least there’s a shot if you live here. Also, the word on the street is that they’ll be replenishing the channel regularly…. so hopefully there will be more restocking of PS3s throughout this holiday season than there were Xbox 360s last holiday season.
But perhaps the biggest question….bigger than any that I’ve asked in this post is, “Since I’m going to risk life and limb for the opportunity to hand over $600 for a large power-consuming black box, what is that device going to do for me?” Or, quite simply, “What game is going to be worth $600?” That’s a question with a particularly grim answer and one that I’ll explore in the next few days.