Black Friday is known for its ability to bring the crazy out of people and this year was no different! Read about the evolution of these console launches and how diehard video gamers spent Thanksgiving sleeping in a parking lot for the CHANCE to purchase either a Sony Playstation 5 or Microsoft Xbox Series X/S.
Let's be honest, as we approach the end of the year it is totally ok to admit how terrible it has been.
A global pandemic, a nearly year long lockdown and a deep recession to go with it, 2020 is definitely a year I will be happy to see end next month.
However, there have been a few rays of sunshine to keep our spirits up while we wait COVID-19 out. Early November saw the two biggest companies in the video game industry, Microsoft and Sony, release their highly anticipated next generation gaming consoles. There is only one small, tiny, problem. No one can get them!
Xbox Series S and Series X
Over the last few weeks since launch day, there has been a ton of speculation as to the scarcity of these new systems, but I think once you had had time to really sit and give it some thought you will realize it is a combination of a lot of things.
For one, there is a global pandemic that has kept people locked up in their homes for almost a year. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, the idea of having a brand new gaming console sounds terrific. Add the fact that the manufacturers were willing to do whatever necessary to make this their biggest releases in history and you are starting to get the picture.
In recent interviews with the press, executives at Sony made it clear that one of their biggest concerns of launching a product of this magnitude during a pandemic was that it wouldn't have enough anticipation or ability to compete with the serious issues facing the world today. How Sony nor Microsoft couldn't see that people were going to scoop these devices up at record breaking speeds is mind-bending. By June of this year video game sales were already on the road to having record breaking sales, imagine what demand would be like 6 months later?!
There is also one more aspect to this whole release that may not have been considered by everybody when planning this launch and that is the involvement of professional scalpers and their use of cutting edge technology to "game" the system (no pun intended). Scalpers. Some of the worst of the worst, especially with these consoles.
You might be asking how Scalpers could play such a huge role in the release of a video game system. Well, let me tell you. There are two ways to purchase one of these devices, either online or in person at a retailer. Scalpers use superior technology to gain an unfair advantage during the purchase process. By using "bots", basically computer software that allows them to buy dozens (or more) consoles at speeds a human is not capable of doing, they are able to exponentially grow the demand and price of these products.
**Each console is priced at $499 USD and is currently being scalped on Ebay for $1000-$2000 USD. There are thousands of units for sale at these prices and even more shockingly, have sold at these inflated prices to desperate people trying to save Christmas**
While you might not think this is a huge deal, it actually did become one, before the devices were even actually sold. Before launch day in November both Microsoft and Sony had a pre order window that allowed customers a chance to pre purchase the device of their choice.
However, there was not an unlimited amount of consoles available meaning not everyone could have one that wanted one (another aspect that makes you wonder about the manufactures role in the problem). There is no good explanation as to why Sony and Microsoft would limit their preorders except to make the products scarce and super valuable. Consumers would definitely be willing to wait longer to get the console in their hands if it meant they were guaranteed to get one.
As 2020 moved along and we got closer to preorder day, the hype for the release of both consoles began to grow rapidly. People were getting desperate for something new, especially with the extended lockdowns! Fast forward to mid September when preorder day finally came. Reports of limited availability had been circulating for months and fans began to really get worried they would not be able to get one.
Any doubt that this release was going to be record breaking, or interfered with by scalpers, immediately dissipated when preorders began and systems crashed all over. Some chose to camp in Gamestop parking lots for the chance to place one of the coveted orders. The result left a lot of people upset and without a reservation for a console.
*Retailers like Target, Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy were completely inundated by bots and scalpers managed to walk away with the lions share of devices. We could spend hours talking about the awfulness of an online release like this but i can sum it up for you quickly today, it sucked. A large portion of people never even had the chance to add the console to their cart and many could not even get the websites to load due to the massive server overload caused by bot traffic (bots can add a product to cart and successfully checkout before a human even loads the darn product page).
If you do a quick search on Google you will find countless videos of people's experience. Its a site to see for sure.
Release Day Nightmare
Between the time preorders were taken and release day in November, each manufacturer made sure to continue hyping their products with constant advertisements, commercials, and news of "exclusive" games that would only be available for either PS5 or Xbox Series X. However, it is important to note that two of the biggest games in the world, Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War and Assassin's Creed Valhalla would be available on both platforms.
If you are a part of the gaming community then you were keenly aware of reports of continued scarcity and the added stress of professional scalpers, which added serious fuel to the fire as we approached launch day. So much so that many people made it clear that they intended to sleep outside of Gamestop for a minimum of 12 hours to heighten their chances of grabbing a console.
Unfortunately, launch day was just as crazy and way more people went home empty handed than those who were actually able to get their hands on one of these highly coveted systems. There were even reports of fights in the parking lots, people who cut the line and those who came just to obtain a console to sell for 2-3x its value.
I should mention that a lot of people were able to get the system of their choice and went home to promptly begin gaming but many more did not.
Both consoles, the PS5 and Xbox Series X were instant sellouts and gamers would not have another chance to purchase either system until the holiday season.
**Again, major retailers Walmart, Best Buy, Target and Amazon all had serious issues with their websites leaving many people distraught over their continued lack of success in obtaining a console. To add insult to injury, there were reports of people successfully checking out only to get a cancellation email hours later due to the product being "oversold."
How can billion dollar companies fail to adopt measures to prevent bot activity and ensure their actual customers are cared for? The simple, callous, New York answer is money. A sale is a sale is a sale. Why would Walmart care if scalper man buys 100 units leaving poor Timmy with coal under the tree? It's sad but the truth. Hopefully one day there will be a company of this magnitude that actually cares about its customers.
Before we move on to Black Friday, I should mention that the period between launch day (11/10-11/12) and Black Friday (11/27), it became clear to millions (yes, millions!) of people that they might not actually be able to get one of these consoles before Christmas. Lots of parents began to fear disappointing their kids, or spouses, in what has been an already tremendously difficult year and that is how we ended up with the situation that occurred during Black Friday 2020.
Gamers Sleeping Outside Gamestop On Thanksgiving
Black Friday Chaos
For the record, i would like to say that I think Black Friday encompasses everything that is wrong with America and i am a capitalist, but seriously its embarrassing.
This year Black Friday was more like two weeks if you include Cyber Monday. Retailers were taking advantage of the fact that the majority of Americans are still stuck at home with little to do other than spend money online.
Sony and Microsoft announced that there would be "plenty" of stock available for the holiday season, which is just insulting given how everything has gone since September.
Retailers began advertising deep deep discounts on every category of product and announced plans to conduct flash sales almost every day of the week of Thanksgiving leading up to Black Friday. While consoles were not being discounted as part of the sale, they would still be available and this would be the last chance to get one before Christmas(and according to reports from Sony and Microsoft product shortages could last well into 2021).
One particular retailer, Gamestop, announced plans to have both PS5 and Xbox Series X available in limited quantities at all of their locations nationwide on Black Friday. When they say limited they mean 2 to 4 of each device per store. Yes, 2 as in the number after 1 and before 3. One of their biggest retailers during the holiday season would have a handful of consoles and hundreds of thousands of people looking to buy them. This wasn't a sale anymore it was a lottery!
Keep in mind, if you go to Ebay or any one of the numerous secondary market sites online, you have the pleasure of buying a console with no wait or fuss, for $1000-$2000 USD! Consoles that cost $499 were being scalped for 2-3x their MSRP and the scalpers were able to get thousands of systems. Scalping is totally unfair, especially during a pandemic and despite my capitalist views, really should not be legal. But it is.
So here we are rapidly approaching Thanksgiving, 10 months into a seemingly never-ending pandemic, and people were faced with the choice between spending the holiday with their family or waiting outside in a parking lot for upwards of 24 hours to get either PS5 of Xbox Series X. Do I really need to ask you what choice most people made? Yes, people chose to forego their Thanksgiving plans and instead set up tents, cots or just sleep on the ground outside their local Gamestop location. This is truly madness.
Thanks to the technology age lots of potential buyers chose to monetize their experience by streaming live on popular social media platforms like Youtube and Instagram.
Oh, i forgot to mention, this year Gamestop decided to close on Thanksgiving, so those who wanted to guarantee themselves a console had to show up on Wednesday night (WEDNESDAY!!!) and wait until the doors opened on Friday (YES, FRIDAY) morning. Some locations opened promptly at 7am, while others did not open until noon. The result left eager customers spending between 24 and 48 hours on line, in a parking lot, on Thanksgiving.
Should I continue?
Let me remind you that each Gamestop location was allocated between 0 and 10 consoles with the majority of stores having 2 of each console. Common sense would dictate that no more than 10 people maximum would camp outside the store. Wrong! Reports verified with video evidence show that some locations had 100 people waiting for the chance to go home empty handed. I mean really, it sounds ludicrous because it is, its crazy! IF you know that a store only has two of an item you want, and the sale will be first come first served would you wait in line outside behind 90 people? For two days? On thanksgiving? Well, if you had looked you would have found them at every Gamestop in America.
If you are desperate to get your hands on either the Playstation 5, or Xbox Series X, and have not been able to do so yet, there is still time to do so. All you have to do is be incredibly lucky, I mean like miracle status and you should have no problem! Seriously though, there are still plenty of retailers that will have at least a handful of systems in stock before Dec 25th, you will just have to be vigilant and make securing it a top priority if you really want that console under the tree this year.