At this very moment, an armada of ships are heading to docks around the world.
Laden with shiny new PS4s and Xbox Ones, they are fresh from the factory line and ready to roll out at retailers in next-gen console launch countries.
But here’s the thing – very few people know exactly how many will turn up on time. One boat or two? How many are set aside for which territory? When will the next wave arrive?
Variables like this put recent concerns from smaller retailers about PS4 stock into a very clear context.
Claims of allocations and pre-orders matter not when it comes to an inevitably oversubscribed launch like this. Retailers were always getting X per cent of Y.
And yet some retailers still (overenthusiastically) guaranteed customers they can have part of value X when they never knew the real number in the first place.
Meanwhile, Sony adding a bunch of bundles to the range on shelves (‘on shelves’ in theory – PS4’s looking like a guaranteed sell-out) is an understandable attempt to add more value to the equation.
Value to margins, value to what gamers are getting, value for retailers managing customer expectations.
That makes it pretty tricky to judge or condemn anyone involved in the chain here.
A chain where everyone – from format-holder to distributor via retailer – is effectively the middleman in ensuring that consoles go from factory to living room, and reinvigorate the market.
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