What do the Wii, Switch, PS5 and Xbox Series X all have in common? If pre-order stock shortages is your answer, you’d be correct.
Pre-orders for both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X opened this past week, with the former’s pre-order rush coming with little-to-no preparation for gamers. That lack of notice appears to have little if any impact on the actual demand to pre-order: Series X pre-orders opened in Australia at 8am AEST, predominately online only, and the experience was similarly fractured for consumers.
Understandably, 2020 has presented many different challenges for many industries, notwithstanding the gaming and retail industries, and that was perhaps best on display over the past week. A shift to online ordering almost exclusively — and inevitable stock shortages — mean 2020 probably won’t end as happy as many hoped it would.
Unfortunately, with the PS5’s sudden pre-order announcement leaving many literally no opportunity to pre-order — they found out after the console had sold out — the preparedness of the Series X pre-order window prompted tens if not hundreds of thousands of gamers to flood the websites of EB Games, JB HiFi and Harvey Norman. This led to — you guessed it — the sites crashing under the strain, and so many people that had actually prepared and waited to pre-order also found themselves missing out.
With the aforementioned retailers — arguably the most popular choices for gamers in Australia — selling out quickly, people started flooding the official Microsoft Store, with varied success: I ended up snagging a Series X that had been sitting in my cart from 8:01am, but I couldn’t process the payment until well after the store said it had “sold out”.
No one on the phone nor on chat could tell me whether or not my order would actually be fulfilled, and once the order did process, the customer care agent simply told me that consoles ship “from November 9”, but he couldn’t tell me whether or not I was part of the initial stock allocation, or the second one, which, coincidentally, was made available just as my order was finally processed.
Similar circumstances appear to have plagued customers of EB Games and JB Hi-Fi. The former has been slammed on social media, with many gamers claiming they had a console in their cart, and proceeded through to checkout, only to be told to log back into their account. At that point, a flurry of errors would present, ranging from incorrect passwords, empty carts, and accounts simply no longer existing. I experienced all of the above.
JB Hi-Fi offered pre-orders but made it clear from the start that it couldn’t promise launch day availability. Trying there presented similarly mixed results: payments couldn’t be processed, carts would mysteriously emptied, and, suddenly, everything was sold out.
EB Games then opened pre-orders again at 3pm (after initially planning a second allocation for midday before shifting it back), only for the same site-crashing issues to present. Except this time, those that had a console in their cart and had actually reached the payment stage back at 8am were receiving emails saying their order had been processed, and that they’d receive a console on launch day. Our friends at Stevivor were among people in that situation. So yes, you had people whose 8am orders were taking seven hours to process.
No one I have spoken to, however, aside from a few confident mystery sellers on eBay, appear to know whether or not they’ll get a new Xbox on November 10. Even those who received that email from EB Games at 3pm claim no deposit has been taken from their bank account. I’ve received an email from the Microsoft Store, but there’s zero indication as to whether I’ve actually pre-ordered the console for launch or simply ordered it for after launch. JB Hi-Fi customers have parted ways with $50 simply to secure a “You’re in the queue” email, with firm messaging that there is no guarantee for November 10.
This is a stark contrast to the launch of both the PS4 and Xbox One. With the latter, I walked into an EB Games on launch night and bought one. Granted, the Xbox One was facing a number of challenging PR and media backlashes, and the PS4 did face some stock constraints, but nothing was as complex, convoluted and mysterious as the Series X pre-order fiasco.
I haven’t pre-ordered a console since the Xbox 360 way back in 2005, and back then I knew exactly what I was getting and when. Even with the Nintendo Wii, which faced extensive delays from launch, people had a window of when stock would arrive and when they were in the queue. I remember putting my money down in December and being told clearly that I was allocated a console for the March shipment.
Fast forward 14 years and all I have is an email saying “Thank you for your order”, how much I was going to pay, and when the console was released.
I’m not blaming anyone here or pointing the finger but I really can’t think of a product launch where so many people have quite literally no idea when they might be receiving their console. It’s a mess, and a little frustrating, and, look, understandable to a degree given the current issues sweeping across the globe. But this could have been done better.
I’ve quite literally gone from losing sleep last night out of pure excitement for securing an Xbox Series X, to having absolutely no idea when I’m going to get one. And I managed to checkout with a console presumably during the first wave allocation.
It’s a shame that the generation has started out like this, and I hope it’s not defined by it, but consumers deserve more transparency around the stock and logistic allocation of these events.
What was your PS5 and Xbox Series X / S pre-order experience like? Sound off in the comments below!