NEWS - Friday, November 11, 2005

April Showers May Bring Xbox 360S

Xbox 360: Did You Say April? The rumors, apparently, are true. According to retailers in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Miami and Houston, there will be mass shortage of Xbox 360 units on the targeted launch date of November 22. At least a dozen stores around the country, including Gamestop, EB Games, Electronics Boutique, Target and Walmart. One short-tempered clerk at a Gamestop in New York estimated that Xbox 360 units will not be available for walk-in customers until April. That's right, April. April is obviously the worst-case scenario, but every retailer we spoke with that accepted preorders estimated that walk-in customers will have to wait until January for their new system. And since none of those retailers are accepting any more preorders, there may be a lot of disappointed little gamers this Christmas. Here's the breakdown, and keep in mind that most of the employees at the outlets were not allowed to divulge any hard numbers, although a few were kind enough to share. At an EB Games in San Francisco, a manager said that of the more than 200 preorders his store took, he will only be able to supply 20% of those customers. Do the math and that's a paltry 40 or so units at launch. An employee at the Electronics Boutique in New York said they have 79 preorders and will receive only 30 units on the first shipment and he has no idea when the second shipment will come in. At a small EB Games in Los Angeles, of the 49 preorders, one employee expected 25 units at best, with walk-in customers out of luck until possibly February. At a Gamestop in Chicago, an employee scoffed at the idea that even one half of the 100 preorders will be delivered before December. A Gamestop in Miami took about 100 preorders, was promised 50 units from Microsoft, and reports that it will be lucky to get 30 units on November 22. At an EB Games in Houston, a feisty employee refused to divulge any numbers whatsoever, but did say that walk-in customers should cross their fingers for January to land the first next-generation console. For the most part, large retailers like Target and Walmart are not accepting preorders, so their units will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Some of those stores that are open 24 hours are preparing a "midnight madness" event for the 360. The Union City, Calif. Walmart will start a line sometime on November 21. As the clock chimes midnight, customers will be able to purchase one Xbox 360 system. The bad news? Walmart expects to have only 30 units in stock. The Colma, Calif. Target store reported that of an expected 100 or so units, they will most likely receive 50 units, at best. That was pretty much par for the course for other stores as well. Microsoft's Corporate Vice President J Allard said as much in a very candid interview last month. A worldwide launch is very ambitious to say the least, and Allard filled us in. "Honestly, we decided as a management team that we'd rather take the heat from all territories saying we wish we had more. And we'll have to say "sold out" in too many places," Allard said. "We'd rather take that heat, then take the heat from Europe saying, "Why do we have to wait a year?" We designed a worldwide product with worldwide partners, and with worldwide ambition, and the world deserves to see it all at the same time, and we're not going to have enough. That's the fact." Now, let's talk about the rumors about the shortage rumors. It has been rumored, mostly by Internet conspiracy theorists, that Microsoft is purposely creating a shortage to make its 360 system appear more popular than it really is and to generate free press from the media. That seems a bit silly, of course, considering the enormous difficulty involved in a worldwide launch for a very popular system from a company making only its second console.


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