Last week, “just hours before” the launch of the PS3 (according to a news report). Two armed men walked into a Gamestop store and stole four Ps3s and four Xbox 360s. The employees of the store described the two men as wearing hoods, and said that one was Hispanic, the other “dark skinned.”
On Tuesday of this week, two of the Gamestop employees in question, Tauryn Robert Hodge and Gerald Anthony Keys, both 19, were arrested on charges of ” suspected embezzlement, burglary and conspiracy.” Police now believe that the two employees were at the very least complicit in the robbery, and that it’s possible they stole the game consoles themselves, and later fabricated the story about the armed, hooded “dark skinned” men.
The launch of a game console is traditionally a cataclysmic affair; long lines, short supplies, over-enthusiastic gamers, potentially non-functional equipment and the usually frustrating pre-holiday retail environment – all slightly less-than-appetizing ingredients in their own right – all combine to make a lethal combination. Let’s call it the Console Christmas Cake. Like Christmas cakes and their lesser cousins, the unassuming fruit cake, most people are in agreement that Christmas would be better off without them.
The PS3 launch has been no exception. From the now famous riot in downtown Boston, to the mass scramble at a Wal Mart (resulting in a head injury for one man), to the seedy tale Messrs. Hodge and Keys, the PS3 launch has revealed a very dark side to the game industry’s naivet?as the industry has grown (and sales along with it) the number of people lining up to take advantage of the unrepentant enthusiasm of hard core gamers has increased, and some of those people aren’t very nice. Including some of the gamers themselves.
With the PS3’s attach rate (according to Gamestop) currently sitting at around 1.5 games sold per every PS3 console, the number of PS3s available at launch estimated to be somewhere between 125,000 – 200,000 and a rough calculation of the percentage of those consoles ending up on Ebay (only one of many possible places to “flip” a scalped console) at about 10%, it’s become abundantly clear this year that among the consoles actually on store shelves, an extremely high number were purchased by speculators counting on the device’s popularity and short supply to turn a profit.
Sony will undoubtedly publicize this mass hysteria, citing it as evidence of the desirability of their new machine, and they are well within their rights to do so. They may even be correct. Yet it’s not hard to sell out fewer than 200,000 game consoles in a country of more then 300 million people, a large percentage of which play games.
The real proof of whether or not the console giant still has the juice to compete in the current market will come when the number of consoles available exceeds the number of people who will buy anything at any price merely for the bragging rights. In other words, as to the question of who will win the (sigh) console war, the Magic 8 Ball says, “ask again later.” As for the question of which company won the Blog Jam prize for “Best Executed Console Launch,) that one is easy. The coveted Bronze Sleeping Bag for that one goes to Nintendo.
The entire launch(es) itself(themselves), however, earn a BlogJam score of 19, which is the age of three of the maladroit misfits involved in last week’s most embarrassing launch-day debacles, and my own personal estimate for the number of PS3s in the hands of actual gamers this Thanksgiving.