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 north London resident Megan Nagel.
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 said in a tweet that “there will be no PS5s available to buy today”.
“We know that this is disappointing news, and we are working super hard to get more stock,” the company said.
Some customers managed to place an order before the 9am launch time by exploiting a glitch on the company’s website that allowed them to save orders for later. But the company subsequently said it was cancelling these orders.
Argos, another big seller of consumer electronics, said in a statement that pre-orders went live on its website last month and had now sold out. “We’re sorry for any disappointment this may cause and are encouraging customers to check back regularly for updates on more stock.”
On Thursday afternoon its website stated that the cheaper PS5 Digital, priced at £359, was still available but the premium version with a Blu-ray drive was sold out.
John Lewis said in a statement that 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 accepting PS5 orders on Thursday afternoon — but only for delivery on December 10. It also had to delay its launch.
Katie Cousins, gaming analyst at Shore Capital, said the launch was “always going to be a sellout” given that seven years have elapsed since the PS4 went on sale.
“There’s also the Covid impact,” she said. “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.
Ms Cousins added that the Microsoft X-box 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.