Friday, October 13, 2006

EB or eBay-- Choose Your Poison

This week was next-gen console preorder week at EBGames and Gamestop locations across the continental US. Tuesday was PS3 day, and today was Wii day, and in both cases the news didn't break until the eleventh hour, presumably to help keep lines down to a minimum. The PS3 preorders were sold out nation-wide by mid-afternoon, although most locations sold out within minutes. The average allotment for each store was twelve consoles, there was no forced bundling, and the required down-payment was $100 (of real money, not trade-ins, as was rumoured). Informal polling at several different locations revealed that the majority of those preordering the console were doing so with the intent of re-selling it on eBay.

Meanwhile, the official details on this morning's Wii launch are still pending, but more informal polling shows a consistently greater demand for the Wii. Again, most reported locations sold out within minutes, and the lines were in most cases twice as long as twice as early as they were for the PS3. There were again no forced bundles, and the required down-payment was only $50. Allotment numbers here appear to be less consistent, with some places reporting as few as four and other reporting as many as two dozen. These generally low numbers, coupled with some rumours that I've heard on-line and at my local EB lead me to believe that Nintendo still hasn't given them firm numbers, and that this is simply a cautious first wave of preorders, with more likely to follow once they know for sure how many they're getting. Also of note is that, in stark contrast to the PS3 launch, informal polling showed that the large majority of those lined up for Wii preorders intend to keep their consoles instead of auctioning them off.

I've been absorbing a lot of first-hand accounts of how precisely the Wii and PS3 preorders went down, and my favorite thought is this: "The days of standing outside in the cold to wait for a launch day console are over-- now you get to stand outside in the cold to wait for the right to stand outside in the cold to wait for a launch day console." Well, I'll be doing just that come Monday morning, as that's when the Canadian preorders for both the Wii and the PS3 will begin. Unlike the Yanks, we're required to put down a whopping $200 up front to preorder either console, which, frankly, I like, since it's more likely to scare away the kids and shorten the line. I'm taking the day off from work (I've got vacation days to burn anyway, and I'm a bit under the weather at the moment), and I intend to show up with a book and my DS in tow at around 8:15 at the EB in the Regent mall, which opens at 10AM. If I'm able to obtain a Wii preorder (I won't be preordering a PS3, although I expect to have the opportunity), I'll cancel my Rogers preorder that afternoon, but, for the moment, it's a nice safety net to have. A preorder at EB is more likely to get a Wii into my hands on launch day, rather than later, and I'm already going to have to stand in line for their launch event since I've preordered all of my games and accessories there, so I'd prefer to get mine at EB if I can manage it.

This would all be a lot easier if I lived in New York. The Nintendo World store in Times Square has been taking preorders for over a month now, with numbers in the 1000's and still climbing. They've stated that they expect to close preorders soon, though, given the current rate, so apparently they do have a set limit, incredibly high though it may be. Also, they're offering a guarantee to honour all of those preorders on launch day, unlike most retailers, who, not being owned by Nintendo, have to state otherwise to cover their asses. At least I can take comfort in the fact that, if I'm not able to get a launch Wii, it's probably because a fan bought one to play, not some schmuck intending to sell it on eBay.

As for all of this eBay foolishness, I'm really starting to shift my position on the issue from slight favour towards decided disfavour. At this point, things have definitely gotten out of hand. The whole thing strikes me as ultimately self-defeating, and I for one am praying that there is such a glut of PS3s for sale that the prices are driven way down and those guys are all forced to keep their glorified Blu-ray players. That being said, although I'm certainly not fond of the scalpers themselves, I mostly blame Sony and eBay-- the earlier for launching a console before they're ready, and the latter for providing the framework for this kind of profiteering. I think that eBay should have some kind of policy in place restricting sale on items that have only been available for purchase for less than thirty days or some such. They already have a policy forbidding sales that can't be guaranteed to be delivered with thirty days, which is why they've been busy taking down hundreds of auctions for PS3 preorder slips (with prices ranging from steep to ludicrous-- we're talking six figures here), as opposed to a rumoured shadowy Sony conspiracy. If Sony has the time and money to spend on such a conspiracy, they'd be well-advised to instead use it to try and clean up this disaster of a launch that's waiting to happen.


Update: I arrived at EB this morning at roughly 8:15AM to discover that there were at least a dozen people in front of me (and, from what I gather, several more that I missed), and that the store had already opened to begin taking preorders. Amusingly enough, I recognized the fellow at the head of the line as the person who was directly in front of myself and John in the line to buy a launch-day PS2 at Toys R Us roughly five years ago (we were second and third in that line, as I recall, given that I was a little more enthusiastic in those days). I was initially concerned about my position in line, but the employee watching the line (I can't recall his name at the moment, although I should probably know it, given that he's worked there for years) assured me that I was in time to get either or both of a Wii and a PS3, although they were nearing their limit.

The whole thing struck me as remarkably well-organized. They were letting people into the store one at a time, and guaranteeing a launch day system, provided that Sony and/or Nintendo met their promised allotments. Apparently, I won't need to line up again, as they'll call each of us that preordered and schedule a launch-day appointment for us to come and pick up our system. I was told that they used a similar system for the 360 launch and that it went quite well. So, looks like I'm officially getting my Wii at EB, and I've just now cancelled my order with Rogers. So far, I'm impressed, and I'm cautiously optimistic that everything will indeed go as swimmingly as they claim.

10 Comments:

Anonymous NOS said...

You can't blame eBay unless you think there's something wrong with selling anything you just bought, period. If there are tons of PS3s online, then the market will lower the prices and these people won't make money. If there are lots of people who don't get to play PS3s any time soon, it's entirely Sony's fault.

Saturday, October 14, 2006 2:01:00 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

You can't blame eBay unless you think there's something wrong with selling anything you just bought, period.
I don't think that there's something inherently wrong with selling something that you just bought, since that's what retailers do, but I do think that there's something wrong with individuals auctioning off things that they just bought en masse. They're both opportunism, but at least the earlier is organized, consistant, and regulated, whereas the latter is an intimidating shifting mass of scum and villiany.

Saturday, October 14, 2006 8:31:00 PM  
Anonymous NOS said...

But you would agree that if I bought something for whatever reason, I could sell it to you for whatever reason the very next day, in general? Say, I buy Monkey Island 8 today, but it won't run on my Mac so I sell it to you tomorrow. It is simply the specific "scalping" motivation that sits sour on the tongue.

I don't think that's eBay's fault so much as it is an unfortunate side effect of eBay's model. While it might be nice if they tried to patch it, I doubt it is actually a good idea. For one, there are other auction sites out there just killing for angles to cut in on eBay, for another it would probably affect a number of legitimate sales which would hurt eBay even more (as well as the legit sellers.)

Finally, this position is somewhat* at odds with your previous libertarian-esque arguments as to what constitutes a "reasonable" price for something.

* (Italics intended to be read in an equivocating "enh...." type manner as opposed to an understatement-intended-to-emphasize manner. I don't know why I feel the need to make this explicit in such a verbose manner. Good day to you, sirrah!)

Sunday, October 15, 2006 10:12:00 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

But you would agree that if I bought something for whatever reason, I could sell it to you for whatever reason the very next day, in general?
Indeed I would agree. In fact, I'd remind you where your copy of Bonehunters came from.

I don't think that's eBay's fault so much as it is an unfortunate side effect of eBay's model.
I'm inclined to agree at this point. I'm trying to come up with a reasonable counter-argument that wouldn't be contradicting myself, and I'm drawing a blank. I'm just not feeling it. You're right-- eBay's probably not to blame. Nonetheless, I feel like they should be, at least in part. *shrug*

Finally, this position is somewhat* at odds with your previous libertarian-esque arguments as to what constitutes a "reasonable" price for something.
I dunno about that. I'm comfortable paying the standard inflated prices chosen by soulless corporations, but I'm not comfortable with my price being dictated by how much other fanboys are willing to pay-- we're not generally known to be a reasonable group. :-)

Monday, October 16, 2006 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

Update: I arrived at EB this morning at roughly 8:15AM to discover that there were at least a dozen people in front of me (and, from what I gather, several more that I missed), and that the store had already opened to begin taking preorders. Amusingly enough, I recognized the fellow at the head of the line as the person who was directly in front of myself and John in the line to buy a launch-day PS2 at Toys R Us roughly five years ago (we were second and third in that line, as I recall, given that I was a little more enthusiastic in those days). I was initially concerned about my position in line, but the employee watching the line (I can't recall his name at the moment, although I should probably know it, given that he's worked there for years) assured me that I was in time to get either or both of a Wii and a PS3, although they were nearing their limit.

The whole thing struck me as remarkably well-organized. They were letting people into the store one at a time, and guaranteeing a launch day system, provided that Sony and/or Nintendo met their promised allotments. Apparently, I won't need to line up again, as they'll call each of us that preordered and schedule a launch-day appointment for us to come and pick up our system. I was told that they used a similar system for the 360 launch and that it went quite well. So, looks like I'm officially getting my Wii at EB, and I've just now cancelled my order with Rogers. So far, I'm impressed, and I'm cautiously optimistic that everything will indeed go as swimmingly as they claim.

Monday, October 16, 2006 10:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Craig said...

With respect to re-selling on E-Bay, it's a free-market economy so you gotta take the good with the bad. If there is a 'glut' they get stuck with a console they don't need/want and they're out $600, and learn a valuable lesson to boot. If somebody with more money than brains wants to pay outrageous prices, let them do it. It's not up to E-Bay to moderate common-sense IMHO.

It's not like their trying to sell bread to hungy children. It's a luxury item so let the auctions ride I say.

Monday, October 16, 2006 10:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous (Vintage) said...

What a lovely vacation! Sitting on the floor of the mall to get the newest techno thingy. Each to their own I guess. And, at least you got what you were looking for! So I suppose that's worth it.

Let's hope your "cancelled order" was really accepted at Rogers, so you don't have to resell it on eBay - now that would be funny. Just kidding, not really funny, but strange for sure.

Hope you saved a few vacation days to play those games, oh, and I guess there is always christmas vacation, if you've run out.

Monday, October 16, 2006 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

What a lovely vacation! Sitting on the floor of the mall to get the newest techno thingy.
Sitting on the floor? Hardly. More like looking disdainfully at the few people who did actually choose to sit down on the dirty mall floor. In any case, I was home by quarter to nine, so I still had a full day of vacation, most of which I spent sleeping. I thought of just going in to work, but then I realized that I didn't want to. :-)

Let's hope your "cancelled order" was really accepted at Rogers
It certainly seemed to be processed with no problem, although I do intend to check up on it again and make sure.

Hope you saved a few vacation days to play those games
I do have several remaining, actually, but I'll probably carry them over into next year, since I like having some available for emergency use.

Monday, October 16, 2006 5:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous (Vintage) said...

since I like having some available for emergency use.

It's always good to have a few extra days kicking around. Maybe next year you can save a few other days and go on a trip somewhere.

Everyone seems to be traveling these days - you should go on a cruise or an all inclusive beach resort. The Carribean might be quite nice in February/March. I haven't read that you've taken much of a vacation yet, so maybe a trip like this is an emergency? You need a good break and time to relax. Charge up your PSP for those days at sea, if you still need a gaming fix. Get a couple of friends to go with you and you'll have a great time! How about it JB - going to treat yourself to some relaxation?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 2:48:00 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

Jordan no travel.

I'd much rather spend a week in front of my TV than abroad. That's valuable backlog catch-up time I'd be wasting!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 3:31:00 PM  

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