PSN Outage Begins To Hit Retail
By Nathan Brown on May 12, 2011
Gamer patience begins to wear thin as retailers report increased trade-ins of PS3 consoles for Xbox 360s.
The ongoing PlayStation Network outage is beginning to have an effect on the high street, Edge can reveal.
Our sources indicate a growing trend of PS3 consoles being traded in for cash or Xbox 360s, slumping sales of PSN points cards and a shift in the ratio of multiplatform game sales and pre-orders away from PS3.
“In the first week of downtime we did not really see any major change in sales or trades,” says one source, a store manager at a major UK retailer speaking on condition of anonymity. “However from the second week onwards we have seen an increase of over 200 per cent on PS3 consoles being traded in, split almost 50/50 between those trading for cash and those taking a 360 instead.”
Another source, working for an independent retailer in the South West, said he had seen a “massive increase” in the volume of PS3s traded in in recent weeks, with most exchanging for an Xbox 360. He describes those trading in their PS3s as “the hardcore online shooter crowd” – players who spend most of their gaming time playing the same game online, and who are therefore greatly impacted by the outage.
Tom Mestdagh, of Belgian indie Gameswap – the only retailer we spoke to happy to go on the record – agrees. “At the end of each month people come to sell their consoles,” he tells us. “People that need money [to pay bills]. What’s different this time around is that that they are bringing in PS3s together with all their games and they don’t want money, they want an Xbox 360. In every case it is because of Black Ops and or Modern Warfare 2.
“We’re just ten days into the month and already we have an increase of 200 per cent in PS3s coming into the store compared to all of March. Normally we sell them really fast, but not this time. We’ve only sold 30 to 40 per cent of our inventory right now.”
The outage is also affecting game-buying habits, with all of our sources reporting increased levels of trade-ins of Call Of Duty: Black Ops for PS3, with the Xbox 360 release relatively thin on the ground.
It is a fact borne out by the recent UK all-formats software charts. In the week ending March 16, 49 per cent of sales of Black Ops were for Xbox 360, with 37 per cent buying the PS3 version. The following week PS3 sales actually increased, split 52/40 in PS3’s favour.
Sony took PS3 offline on April 20, and informed consumers of the breach on April 26. The difference in sales figures since is telling: in the week ending April 30, Black Ops sales were split 59/30 per cent in Xbox 360’s favour; last week the distance grew even further, with 66 per cent of sales on Xbox 360, and a mere 24 per cent of buyers taking the PS3 version.
The same pattern can be seen in sales of FIFA 11, another hugely popular online title. In the week ending April 16, the split was 49/37 per cent in Xbox 360’s favour, 46/34 the week after, 52/26 in the week ending April 30 and 49/21 last week.
Our high street source reports that “pre-orders have been cancelled and flipped over to 360 versions of games,” with Mestdagh telling us: “People are cancelling their order of Brink for PS3. People that have an Xbox 360 have switched their pre-orders – others are just cancelling entirely.” Sales of PSN points cards, too, have plummeted over the past couple of weeks.
Perhaps the biggest shift, though, has been in customer satisfaction. Our high street source explains: “A lot of people have been phoning asking us about personal details on PSN as they are struggling to get a response from Sony themselves. Overall, people that have traded with us seem annoyed at how Sony has handled all of this, and say they would not trust them with details again in the future.”
Another source, who works for an independent retailer in northern England, says he has not noticed any significant increase in PS3 consoles being traded in, but said: “All we’ve seen is an incredible amount of disgruntled people annoyed that they can’t play online.” Mestdagh says that those who normally drop in for a spot of friendly console warfare “have stopped complaining about the fact that Microsoft charges for Xbox Live. It used to be a big problem for most of our PS3 customers.”
Of course, it must be noted that this is a small sample, and it seems that only those desperate for their online fix have taken the drastic step of ditching their PS3s entirely, but it is telling nonetheless.
UK hardware sales are rarely reported or broken down by platform, and Game, the UK’s biggest specialist retailer, failed to respond to a request for comment. As such we may never form a true picture of just how severely the PSN outage is affecting retailers, or those who are the most affected by the downtime, who have rarely been considered by media coverage to date: gamers.