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Letters from the Front

It’s pretty unlikely that a preorder for a console wouldn’t go haywire, but here we are in the name of videogames. Immediately following the announcement, Sony tweeted that preorders will go live the very next day, but third-party sites like Walmart broke the street date and published the link 24 hours early, causing a lot of confusion. On the Xbox side of things, things weren’t much of an improvement despite giving us a week’s notice, although it still fared in a lot of issues, especially on my side of things.

Both were plagued with similar issues. Webpages weren’t loading, links would go up and down, stocks would sell out within a second of going live, and retailers said the links would be up were late. Sites couldn’t handle the traffic, especially in Microsoft’s case where I was one of the first to acquire a Series X preorder, with users getting constant error messages. In the end, whether you got a Series X or Series S was just simply down to luck. This is the new normal in the digital era.

You can argue that this want companies want, but you can also argue this is how preordering will work in the digital age. Preordering new tech in this age is going to be messy and complicated. Back in the 2000’s and early 2010s, pre-ordering in person was a surefire way to guarantee you were going to get one and then the digital age began. It makes sense that there wouldn’t be in-person preordering in the middle of a pandemic, but a lot of retailers said they would have stock or at least claimed to have stock. Gamestop, for example, had instore consoles but it was very low and inconsistent between the PS5 and the new Xbox consoles.

We, the consumers, have to struggle with transparency when it comes to stock. Since the Series X was announced in December of 2019, people have been interested in the new consoles and keeping their ear to the ground. However, due to the pandemic, things have been shifty. We just only got pricing this month, around two months from the launch date and the reveals were handled every differently than what we were used to. Seven years ago, the Xbox One and the PS4 was announced on the same day back at E3 and we knew that we would have to wait for information due to the pandemic staggering nearly everything when it comes to these consoles. Now, that we had the dates what came next was unsure. There were reports that the consoles would be delayed into 2021 then there were reports that there would be increased supply to meet the ever increasing demand. It’s understandable that somebody would be confused. The lack of messaging about the new consoles and the length of time both Microsoft and Sony used to fully reveal their products had led to rampant speculation.

It’s just not the console manufacturers either, it’s the retailers as well. Retailers have made things even more confusing and fanned the flames, Walmart broke street date 24 hours early than intended. Best Buy and Amazon went live with Xbox preorders a minute before it actually went live, even if you were about to grab an Xbox Series X or Series S through Amazon, you were met with sold out or due to demand you wouldn’t be able to have your console arrive at launch day. On the Microsoft Store, the servers were down and fried due to high traffic on the website. Nothing was loading. An utterly painful experience and this experience will most likely be the new normal as the next generation begins and gets going in a year or two.

This pre-ordering fiasco is filled with holes that needs to be closed up, but, those holes will never be closed up because companies don’t want to spend the money on a queue system. A queue system would work wonders when you pre-order a console through any of the websites mentioned above. In the end, Sony and Microsoft could do only so much when the information wasn’t even there in the beginning. Preordering in the digital age is going to be an absolute nightmare.

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