On November 20, just as the rest of the world was getting the console, we here in the Philippines were finally given the chance to pre-order the PlayStation 5. Much to no one’s surprise, the whole exercise turned out to be something of a mess.
The surge of people trying to pre-order the console meant that pre-order sites were quickly overwhelmed within a few minutes of opening. Meanwhile, some stores ended up overstating their stock, resulting in them having to refund pre-orders later in the day—much to the disappointment of many who thought they had beaten the rush.
In cases like this, it’s easy to blame the retailers for not being ready for the rush, or Sony for not having enough stock. However, I do believe that there is another party to blame for what happened in this situation, as well as what seems to be happening in product launches this year in general: us.
Our hype is just enabling these companies
Over the past couple of months, we’ve heard horror stories of launches gone horribly wrong (or more precisely, horribly right), with supplies running out and desperate buyers unable to get any stock.
In addition to the PlayStation 5’s launch—which is seeing shortages all over the world (and not just here)—there was also the launch of Nvidia’s RTX 30 series. With Nvidia unable to produce enough cards, it’s still quite hard to acquire an RTX 3080, 3070 or even 3090 to this day. The same is now happening with AMD’s RX 6000 series cards as well—even though the company said that they would have enough at launch.
The situation has been made even worse by scalpers, many of whom now use bots to be able to buy products en masse at launch so that they can sell them at inflated prices. In the PS5’s case, one scalper group in the U.K. has even claimed to have more stock of the console than actual retailers.
All this, however, would not happen without the massive hype that we consumers are now attaching to the launches of these products.
Hype has always accompanied the launches of much-awaited products. But these days, the level of hype surrounding products such as the PS5 or the RTX 3080 has reached new highs. It’s as if social media and influencer culture has given us a massive case of collective FOMO (fear-of-missing-out, for those not familiar to the lingo).
Going back to the PS5, Sony recently confirmed that they pre-sold more of the console in 12 hours than its predecessor, the PlayStation 4, sold in 12 months. The ongoing pandemic, where a lot of people who’re stuck at home have turned to gaming to pass the time, has contributed somewhat to this. But considering how the PS4’s launch was considered the largest console launch at the time, then you can see that this is a trend that’s been here for a while now.
With the hype levels for these products going through the roof, of course, these companies (and the scalpers) are going to take advantage of it. Of course, they’re going to drum up the hype surrounding the launch date. Of course, they’re going to get the products into the hands of influencers and reviewers to make people want the products even more.
As painful as it can be to admit (especially for my generation, which tends to assign values to companies), these companies have one goal in mind: to make money. Playing into the hype means that they can maximize sales at launch. So what if the product sells out—the law of supply and demand will ensure that demand for the product will remain high, allowing them to continue to sell the product at high prices.
Time to rein in the hype
Some of you, after reading this, maybe thinking that companies should change how they approach product launches and the hype around then. But, as I explained previously, there really isn’t any incentive for them to do so.
The only way to avoid the heartbreak that’s become more and more associated with these launches is to avoid participating in them altogether. The first revisions of new hardware are often fraught with bugs anyway—just look at the issues with the RTX 30 cards and some launch PS5 units.
In addition, there often isn’t much that can take advantage of the new hardware at launch. While it does have some great first-party exclusives such as Demon’s Souls, most of the PS5’s heavy-hitters are coming next year. At the same time, not every game takes advantage of the advanced features of both the RTX 30 and RX 6000 series graphics cards.
By waiting a bit longer to get new hardware, you not only avoid the launch rush (and subsequent drama and heartache when it runs out of stock), you also stand a chance of getting it when it’s at a better state—with less bugs and more games.