The PlayStation 5’s launch date has arrived, but has been marred by frustrated fans, stock shortages and store outages, as much as new gaming experiences.
The new PlayStation includes a variety of new features such as a redesigned controller, as well as vastly improved specs that allow for 8K gaming and the near-total eradication of loading screens. Reviews, including in The Independent, have been effusive in their praise for the performance and power of the new console, even as they noted its unusual – and unusually large – design.
The console rapidly sold out when pre-orders opened in September and has continued to be in short supply ever since. As the release date arrived, many had hoped that new consoles would go on sale online – and they were only being sold online, because of coronavirus lockdowns – but stock was very short indeed.
The PS5’s slogan is “Play Has No Limits”, and the many fans who received their new PlayStations on release day no doubt enjoyed finding out the ways that was true. But the vast majority of fans, who were stuck without a console or any easy way to buy one, found themselves very limited.
There was perhaps no more perfect illustrations of the frustration and confusion than the saga of Curry’s. The company had promised that it would have more PlayStations at 9am in the morning; when that time arrived, it said the launch had been delayed until later in the day; then finally it admitted that it would not have any stock after all, and that fans should keep an eye out in the future.
Through the day, fans flocked to certain websites as rumours of stock refreshes shot around the internet. Amazon had indicated that new consoles would arrive at noon, for instance; when that time came, the retailer’s listing page went down, and when it came back up it had already sold out.
That hunt for new consoles regularly broke those websites, as they struggled to cope with demand; some were forced to put customers into special queues, and others simply went down. John Lewis’s website, for instance, was not accessible throughout the morning – meaning nobody could buy any of its products, not just the PlayStation 5.
Some even looked further afield. Amazon Germany became a particular focus of keen UK fans who had heard that the store might have more stock than retailers in their home country, but the story was largely the same, even if the language wasn’t.
There is not any clear indication that any of the issues will be solved in the near future, either. Sony has said that more consoles will be coming “through the end of the year”, but Microsoft said earlier this week that it did not expect Xbox supply to match demand until possibly April, and there is no reason to think the PlayStation will be any different.
Even those who did manage to pre-order found themselves hit by stock problems. Game said that it would not be able to order all consoles on release date – and blamed the large size of the console and its box for causing problems with deliveries. Some who did get hold of it voiced confusion about how to actually turn it off, or which way to put discs in.
The console is still the biggest technology release of the year – while it’s not clear how many of the PlayStation 5 were sold, or how many wanted one, the numbers are evidently vast. And the issues are likely to be forgotten in the future, when the supply shortages are fixed and players are finally able to get their hands on the widely praised console.
But the issues meant that a morning that could have been the conclusion of years of preparation by Sony and months of excitement among fans actually turned out to be just the beginning of a desperate search to actually get hold of a new PlayStation 5.