In Japan even more than elsewhere, finding Sony’s latest console is an impossible mission. The fans, but also the speculators, are getting organized.
It’s still dark when the first brave begin to form a line in front of a Tokyo electronics store in the hope of buying a PlayStation or Xbox game console, a scene that has become usual in Japan, particularly affected by shortages.
In search of a PlayStation 5 since February, Tetsuya, 50, joined a line of several dozen people shortly after 6:30 a.m. in front of a shop in Akihabara, the “geek” district of the Japanese capital.
But around 8 a.m., a uniformed employee comes to announce that the store did not receive either PS5 or Xbox that day. The crowd disperses quickly and silently. “It’s a shame, but I’ll try my luck again if I have the opportunity,” philosopher Tetsuya, interviewed by AFP.
Scenes of chaos
Sony and Microsoft machines – Nintendo’s Switch is also affected – suffered from supply chain disruptions as soon as they were released in November 2020, further accentuated this year by confinements in China, complicating production and delivery. .
Japanese electronics stores, after having experienced scenes of chaos when consoles were put on sale that sometimes required the intervention of the police, have for the most part since opted for online sales by lottery in order to avoid crowds in the midst of a pandemic.
To discourage “scalping”, the purchase in order to then resell at a high price on the internet, some brands also choose to sell their consoles without warning, according to random arrivals.
The phenomenon baptized “guerrilla sales” in the Archipelago, a term that would have appeared when Nintendo’s DS console, victim of its success, encountered supply problems in the 2000s, thus pushes hundreds of people to try their luck in all over Japan, most often on weekends, before stores open.
At first left to their own devices for lack of reliable information, consumers gradually organized themselves, and one of them had the idea of aggregating on a website information gathered in the field by the details.
“Last summer, I tried for three months to buy a PlayStation 5, but every time I went to a store, the stocks were exhausted”, tells AFP the manager of the site, who wishes remain anonymous.
“To find out if the console was on sale, the only way was to call all the stores or find testimonials on Twitter. I figured everyone had the same problem and creating a place to share information would serve the community.”
This 40-year-old Japanese man, who is also a researcher in artificial intelligence, collects all the information posted on his site’s forum and compiles it into a weekly calendar, allowing users to estimate where and when they will have the best chance of finding a console. .
His investment in community service is time-consuming: he says he spends 7 to 12 hours a day on weekends sorting through and attempting to verify up to 500 daily messages. Its site also gives practical information, explaining for example where to queue in front of each store.
“I don’t have a weekend life, but if I stop, people who want to buy a console will be in trouble,” he says, hoping to support people “who really love video games” against the scalpers.
Beyond the production and delivery problems, Japan is suffering from Sony’s strategy of serving the European and North American markets as a priority, explains analyst Hideki Yasuda of Toyo Securities to AFP. He estimates that only 5-8% of the roughly 20 million PS5s sold worldwide have been in Japan.
When the PS4, Sony’s previous console, was launched in 2013, “the smartphone gaming market was exploding in Japan while the console market was treading water,” Yasuda said. “Sony probably thought it was going to pretty much go extinct in the 2020s, especially as Japan’s population shrinks.”
Result, the PS5 has become an object of speculation, slips the analyst. “If you buy a PlayStation at 55,000 yen (390 euros), you can easily resell it for 80,000 or 100,000 yen”.
“Many people who buy a console in ‘guerrilla sale’ therefore resell it immediately, at full price”, even if it means buying it back later when it is normally available in stores, he adds.
Resellers still have a bright future ahead of them: despite the promise made in May by Jim Ryan, head of Sony’s gaming division, of a “significant increase” in production this year, Mr. Yasuda believes that there is no won’t see massive PS5 supplies until the second half of 2023.
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In Japan, the “guerrilla” to find a PlayStation 5, resold up to 700 euros
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