MEDIA: Media Watch - Sony gives rivals extra life after PlayStation 2 shortage

The Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2) hit the US market on October 25th and was greeted by an onslaught of frenzied parents and gaming aficionados hoping to get their hands on the system. A supply shortage left many retailers and Sony executives wondering if they should have been more careful about they wished for. The marketing hype behind the launch may now backfire for Sony as competitors look to satisfy disappointed customers.

The Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2) hit the US market on October 25th and was greeted by an onslaught of frenzied parents and gaming aficionados hoping to get their hands on the system. A supply shortage left many retailers and Sony executives wondering if they should have been more careful about they wished for. The marketing hype behind the launch may now backfire for Sony as competitors look to satisfy disappointed customers.

The Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2) hit the US market on October 25th and was greeted by an onslaught of frenzied parents and gaming aficionados hoping to get their hands on the system. A supply shortage left many retailers and Sony executives wondering if they should have been more careful about they wished for. The marketing hype behind the launch may now backfire for Sony as competitors look to satisfy disappointed customers.

CARMA International found that the focus of media attention for Sony was on the effect that the supply shortage had on demand for the PS2 during the launch phase. While some articles speculated on a hidden agenda by Sony to unnaturally increase demand due to scarcity, most articles recognized that it was an industry-wide shortage in the computer chips which operate the box, that was responsible for the shortfall.

Sony spokespeople were also quick to defend the company. 'It's absolutely ridiculous to suggest that by limiting our audience we would successfully be pursuing our business goals,' defended Sony vice president Andrew House (Time, October 30). This high level of demand appeared to make the PS2 the undisputed heavyweight of the holiday season, with one-day sales more than doubling those for Sega during the Dreamcast release in 1999, which had set the US record for one-day sales (San Francisco Chronicle, November 6).

Sales notwithstanding, most journalists recognized a clear opportunity for competitors to fill the gaps in supply with their own game systems.

Sega has already reduced the price of Dreamcast; many analysts also see the potential for this to have a detrimental effect long-term for Sony should customers become disillusioned with the company.

'Seeing that there was going to be a lot of heat on the game industry, it seemed appropriate to bring out our big guns,' said Nintendo spokeswoman Beth Llewelyn on a new software release for the Nintendo 64. 'I don't think we could have planned it better,' (Seattle Post-Intelligence, October 28).

An equal number of stories began announcing the holiday gaming hits for Christmas 2001, with Nintendo and Microsoft promoting the GameCube and X-box, respectively.

A number of reports chose to highlight the lengths to which avid players and determined parents will go to retrieve the Sony PS2s, noting instances of violence and petty theft. 'The PlayStation 2 ... hit stores across the nation, unleashing a crime wave unseen since the heyday of Al Capone, Darryl Strawberry and Tickle Me Elmo,' wrote one journalist in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune (October 30). One customer who received a PS2 refused to give her name to the press for fear that vandals would hunt her down in search of the holy grail of video-gaming.

Sony executives publicized their efforts to keep a steady stream of PS2s coming to the US. However, few believed Sony would be able to make a dent in demand, and that potential sales will most likely fall below projections due to the supply shortage.

The holiday tradition of too many buyers chasing too few goods seems to remain alive and well this year. Retailers expect sales to be up overall this holiday season.

- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be found at www.carma.com.



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