“Guerrilla” sales, crowdsourcing: Japan’s game console crunch

July 5, 2022

"Guerrilla" sales, crowdsourcing: Japan's game console crunch

The PlayStation console has been difficult to buy since its launch in November 2020, with supply chain problems exacerbated by locks

The PlayStation console has been difficult to buy since its launch in November 2020, with supply chain problems exacerbated by locks in China.

It's still dark when queues start to form outside an electronics store in Tokyo, when desperate gamers try to get hold of the latest PlayStation or Xbox despite chronic shortcomings in Japan.

The consoles made by Sony and Microsoft have been difficult to buy since their release in November 2020, as is the Nintendo Switch, with supply chain problems exacerbated by locks in China.

The shortage has affected the world but is particularly acute in Japan as Sony and Microsoft have prioritized other markets.

It has left consumers and shops in a game of cat and rat as customers chase coveted consoles and salespeople fight chaos that has sometimes required police intervention.

Tetsuya, 50, has been trying to get hold of a console since February and lined up before 6:30 a.m. with dozens of other people outside a Store in the Akihabara Electronics District.

But around 8 o'clock an employee showed up to announce that the store had not received either PS5s or Xboxes and the audience was quickly dispersed.

“It's a shame, but I will continue to try my luck if I can,” said Tetsuya, who declined to give his second name.

In the hope of counteracting congestion, many stores have moved sales online using lottery systems, while others have switched to low-profile sales that take place without warning, with consoles arriving on a random schedule.

The phenomenon is known as “guerrilla sales” in Japan, a term that first appeared with the Nintendo DS console, which was a victim of its own success in the 2000s

The shortage of consoles has affected the world but is particularly acute in Japan because Sony and Microsoft have given priority

The shortage of consoles has hit the world but is particularly acute in Japan as Sony and Microsoft have prioritized other markets.

Some players strike back with their own tactics, including one that has created a website that collects information from crowds.

“Last summer I spent three months trying to buy a PlayStation 5, but every time I went to a store they were sold out,” said the 40-year-old Japanese researcher. Artificial Intelligence who asked to remain anonymous.

“The only option was to call each store or find information on Twitter,” he told AFP.

“I thought to myself that everyone must have the same problem, and creating a website to share information would help society.”

“There is no line”

The site's creator says he spends hours on the weekends sorting and verifying up to 500 daily messages posted on its forums.

“For PS5s in Yokohama, they are now selling both the disc edition and the digital edition. It is unclear how many units they have. There is no line,” it says in a post.

The information gives players leads in real time but is also entered into a calendar to illuminate trends and is analyzed with an algorithm designed to predict when stores will have goods.

Japan's console drought is the result of various factors, says analyst Hideki Yasuda at Toyo Securities.

The shortage has led consumers to look for sought-after consoles and sellers are fighting chaos that sometimes requires police intervention.

The shortage has led consumers to look for sought-after consoles and sellers are fighting chaos that sometimes requires police intervention.

Microsoft's Xbox has never been as popular in Japan as elsewhere, so in times of scarcity, the country is not a priority market.

And Sony has focused on sales of the PS5 in Europe and North America, according to Yasuda, which estimates that only five to eight percent of the 20 million PS5s sold worldwide were in Japan.

When the PS4 was launched in 2013, “the smartphone gaming market in Japan exploded while the console market stalled,” he told AFP.

“Sony must have thought it would disappear by the 2020s, especially with the shrinking Japanese population.”

As a result, a PS5 bought for 55,000 yen ($ 400) can now easily get 80,000-100,000 yen when resold, and there have even been fist fights with alleged retailers in stores.

Despite promises from PlayStation boss Jim Ryan in May of a “significant increase” in production, Yasuda does not expect a major increase in deliveries before the second half of 2023.

The founder of the crowdsourcing site says he will continue, determined to help those “who really love video games” against “scalpers”.

“I have no life on the weekend, but if I quit, people who want to buy a console will get stuck.”


Sony's new $ 500 PlayStation 5 launches on November 12


© 2022 AFP

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