Games retailers have been overwhelmed by demand for the latest Sony PlayStation console, which launched in the UK on Thursday.
The rush for the Playstation 5 – which in non-pandemic times would have sparked midnight queues and camping outside high street stores – caused the entire John Lewis website to crash for nearly two hours. The department store apologised to shoppers and blamed “extremely high levels of demand” for the technical issues.
Web pages dedicated to the launch of the PS5 at Tesco and Game also crashed on Thursday morning. Currys introduced a queuing system, with tens of thousands of customers waiting in a virtual line. Amazon also experienced site problems under the weight of traffic.
With much of their stock sold in advance via pre-launch orders, Game, Currys, John Lewis and Argos all sold out of the £449 console by 10.10am on Thursday.
Amazon promised customers a small number of consoles would become available at midday on Thursday. When its servers could not cope with the traffic, which caused some failures across the whole site, it delayed the sale by an hour and then sold out within five minutes.
However, thousands of consoles were rapidly available on the auction site eBay for more than double the list price, with some sellers asking for more than £1,000.
The PS5 worldwide launch followed a debut in North America, Japan and a few other other select territories on 12 November. Seven years of pent-up demand since the launch of the PlayStation 4 and the prospect of a long Covid winter drove huge UK demand for the new console, which follows last week’s release of the rival Xbox Series X from Microsoft.
Gaming fans posted angry messages on Currys’ Twitter feed after the company first said it would launch the PlayStation 5 at 9am, then moved it to 11am and then finally admitted it had sold out. “We know that this is disappointing news, and we are working super hard to get more stock,” the company said.
Game’s official Twitter feed put out a message at about 11.20am that said its 9am launch was “on hold” as customers said they had waited over an hour in queues only to find the consoles sold out.
Numerous shoppers complained via Game’s social media channels that they had paid extra for guaranteed morning delivery of a PlayStation 5 on launch day but the console appeared to have been lost or delayed en route.
“ Such a joke,” one shopper wrote, with another commenting: “Really angry.”
Game said there were nationwide “delivery challenges” caused by the launch. It said the scale of demand meant it had signed up lots of different courier firms and one, Yodel, had “capacity issues”.
Yodel said it was “deeply disappointing” it had been blamed for the problems. It said it did not work directly for Game but for GFS, a logistics business, which supplied the retailer, and the delays were the fault of GFS.
Gaming kit is expected to be a popular purchase in the run-up to Christmas as families look for nentertainment during a less sociable festive season than usual.
Game sales and revenue increased by more than 200% during the spring lockdown, according to analysts’ estimates. Nintendo’s profits have tripled and many retailers have also sold out of the new Xbox Series X console.