Xbox One, PlayStation 4 Availability Challenges Holiday Sales

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In an announcement Wednesday morning touting its sale of more than 2 million of its new Xbox One game consoles, Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) said, “Demand is exceeding supply in our 13 launch markets and Xbox One is sold out at most retailers.” That, of course, is not totally good news. If retailers like GameStop Corp. (NYSE: GME), Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT), and Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) can’t get any more of the Xbox One, that is not going to help Microsoft’s sales plan or the retailers’ own.

Both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 from Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) sold a million units on their first day of availability. Since then, each has sold more than an additional million units, with Sony reaching that milestone almost exactly a week earlier than Microsoft because the PlayStation 4 was released a week earlier.

Game console sales at GameStop were expected to rise sharply in the current quarter, but without an Xbox One on the shelf, those hopes could be dashed. After calling Xbox One “one of our hottest selling products of this holiday season,” a company spokesman is quoted in Microsoft’s announcement saying that GameStop “is working closely with Microsoft to receive more units… .”

A Walmart executive is cited saying much the same thing, “We are refreshing our inventory as fast as we can … .”

A quick check at nowinstock.com indicates that the PlayStation 4 is out of stock at all locations except eBay, where the controller sells for as much as $639, well above the $399 list price. Nowinstock.com shows the Xbox One available at several retailers, including Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE: BBY) and Amazon at the $499 list price and up to $670 at eBay. At GameStop and Walmart the Xbox One is listed as out of stock.

Scarcity may be a good public relations ploy, but it is not a good thing for retailers like Walmart and GameStop which make a large chunk of their annual sales during the holiday season. Both Sony and Microsoft appear to have chosen to take the “scarcity is good” tack rather than make sure that their sales channels could get all the product they could sell.

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