Screw the Customer – Reality Life Show – The Video Game Episode

This week is big in the video gaming industry. There are two new video game consoles coming out in the US this week. The Sony PlayStation3 (PS3) is getting released this Friday, and the Nintendo Wii this Sunday. The demand is expected to be high, and the supply, especially for the PS3, is expected to be low.

Nobody really was surprised to see scalpers (*spit*) crawling out of everywhere and reselling PS3 and Wii pre-orders on eBay for more than 100% profit. What people didn’t really expect is to see mostly reputable retailers getting in on the act and royally screwing up their customers.

Let’s start with our first contestant: CompUSA

CompUSA has decided it doesn’t want to just sell the PS3 (at $600 + games and accessories) to customers. No, no, $600 is way to little money to spend on a gaming system. Instead they’re bundling their PS3 with a 40″ Sony HDTV. If you don’t order the 40″ TV, which has a 15% restocking fee in case you decide to return it, you can not buy a PS3 from CompUSA. How brilliant is that?

Our second contestant is Fry’s Electronics.

Fry’s wants you to REALLY enjoy the PS3, so they have you buy 8 games for your PS3 (see upper right corner of the ad). What makes this forced bundling really interesting is that there are only 13 games available for the PS3 at launch. Furthermore BestBuy got into a LOT of trouble with forcing bundles on their customers when the XBox 360 was launched. You’d think retailers would’ve learned from their mistakes. I guess not.

Our third contestant is NovaDataCom, a “network technology warehouse” (aka technology product distributor).

NovaDataCom is holding a PS3 launch party at a dance club called Ultra Bar in Washington DC this Thursday night. Each party goer has the privilege of buying one of the 1,000 PS3s available through NovaDataCom for the low, low price of $1,200 (MSRP is $600). Way to go NovaDataCom!

Our fourth contestant is GameStop / EB Games.

Their chances of winning the contest are somewhat difficult as they got some help from Sony on this one. Just like with the pre-orders for the XBox 360, GameStop recently announced that a lot of people who pre-ordered a PS3 from them are not getting one on the first day as promised. It turns out Sony cut the shipment quantities quite dramatically earlier this week. Still, you can’t help but wonder what exactly did GameStop learn from their mistakes during the XBox 360 launch. I have friends who waited for four months for their pre-ordered XBox 360 from EB Games.

Our fifth, and final, contestant is Toys’R’Us.

Toys’R’Us was wooing potential Nintendo Wii buyers with some attractive offers for free games and other goodies. Well, they changed their minds. No more free games for you, our valued customer. Go Toys’R’Us!

Who will the winner be? Will we get new contestants? Who knows, but we do know, the customer always gets screwed.

[Update 1, 11/15/2006 4:22pm]

We have a new contestant! I’m so excited!

Our sixth contestant is an enterprising scalper scum from Inwood/Washington Heights in NYC.

He’s selling his spot on the PS3 purchase line for a mere $2,000. He’s not selling a PS3 that he owns, or a pre-ordered PS3…he’s selling his spot on the line to buy a PS3. For $2,000. You still gotta pay the $600 to actually buy the PS3. The thing is…he’s 30th in line at this retailer. Very few retailers are getting that many units to sell on Thursday. There is absolutely no way in hell whoever buys his spot is getting a PS3 at this location. Consider this Craigslist ad gone as soon as the content cops at Craigslist get to it.

[Update 2, 11/15/2006 4:34pm]

That was quick. The Craigslist ad is now gone.

[Update 3, 11/19/2006 9:35pm]

Another new contestant, FYE.

FYE is running a classic bait-and-switch scam on Nintendo Wii pre-orders. When people who ordered a Nintendo Wii try and pick up their system, the retailer is forcing them to buy accesories and games with the system bringing the total price of the package from $250 to about $400. No mention of the bundling was made at the time of the pre-order. Scamalicious!


1 Response to “Screw the Customer – Reality Life Show – The Video Game Episode”

  • If I were a game developer right now, I’d be so pissed off at Sony and their channel partners that I’d seriously consider halting development for the PS family. The combination of incompetent marketing and channel management with frankly dubious engineering know-how makes me wonder if PS3 = Apple III (or PS/2). There would have to be two or three absolutely earth shatteringly awesome titles to save the PS3 from its botched beginnings.

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