‘Guerrilla’ sales, crowdsourcing: the Japanese game console crunch

The PlayStation console has been hard to buy since its November 2020 release, with supply chain problems exacerbated by lockdowns

The PlayStation console has been hard to buy since its release in November 2020, with supply chain problems exacerbated by lockdowns in China.

It’s still dark when the line begins to form outside a Tokyo electronics store, as desperate gamers try to get their hands on the latest PlayStation or Xbox despite chronic shortages in Japan.

The consoles made by Sony and Microsoft have been hard to buy since their release in November 2020, as has Nintendo’s Switch, with supply chain problems exacerbated by lockdowns in China.

The shortages have hit globally, but are especially acute in Japan as Sony and Microsoft have prioritized other markets.

That has left consumers and stores in a cat-and-mouse game as customers hunt for coveted consoles and merchants battle chaos that sometimes required police intervention.

Tetsuya, 50, has been trying to get his hands on a console since February and stood in line before 6:30am with dozens of other people outside a store in the electronics district of Akihabara.

But around 8 a.m., an employee came forward to announce that the store hadn’t received any PS5s or Xboxes, and the crowd quickly dispersed.

“It’s a shame, but I will keep trying my chances if I can,” said Tetsuya, who declined to give his middle name.

In hopes of discouraging crowds, many stores have moved sales online using lottery systems, while others have moved to stealthy sales that happen without prior warning, with consoles arriving on a random schedule.

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

Console shortages have hit worldwide, but are especially acute in Japan as Sony and Microsoft have prioritized

Console shortages have hit globally, but are especially acute in Japan as Sony and Microsoft have prioritized other markets.

Some gamers are fighting back with their own tactics, including someone who set up a website that collects crowdsourced information.

“Last summer I tried to buy a PlayStation 5 for three months, but every time I went to a store they were sold out,” said the 40-year-old Japanese, a researcher in artificial intelligence who wished to remain anonymous.

“The only option was to call every store or look for information on Twitter,” he told AFP.

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

‘There is no line’

The site’s creator says he spends hours on weekends sorting and verifying up to 500 daily posts posted to the forum.

“For PS5s in Yokohama, they now sell both the disc edition and the digital edition. It is unclear how many units they have. There is no rule,” reads a message.

The information gives gamers real-time leads, but is also fed into a calendar to highlight trends and analyzed by an algorithm designed to predict when stores will have inventories.

The drought in Japan’s consoles is due to several factors, said Toyo Securities analyst Hideki Yasuda.

The shortage has left consumers seeking coveted consoles and merchants battling chaos that sometimes requires police intervention

The shortage has left consumers seeking coveted consoles and merchants battling chaos that sometimes requires police intervention.

Microsoft’s Xbox has never been more popular in Japan than elsewhere, so in times of scarcity, the country isn’t a priority market.

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

When the PS4 launched in 2013, “the smartphone game market in Japan exploded while the console market faltered,” he told AFP.

“Sony must have thought it would disappear in the 2020s, especially with Japan’s shrinking population.”

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

Despite promises from PlayStation boss Jim Ryan of a “significant increase” in production in May, Yasuda doesn’t expect a major boost to deliveries before the second half of 2023.

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

“I don’t have a life on the weekend, but if I stop, people who want to buy a console are stuck.”


Sony’s new $500 PlayStation 5 launches November 12


© 2022 AFP

Quote: ‘Guerrilla’ sale, crowdsourcing: Japanese game console crunch (2022, July 5) retrieved July 5, 2022 from https://techxplore.com/news/2022-07-guerrilla-sales-crowdsourcing-japan-game.html

This document is copyrighted. Other than fair dealing for personal study or research, nothing may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.