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March 19, 2005

America Drives Global Sony PSP Sales Underground

Personal Tech Pipeline

Insatiable demand by U.S. retailers on the eve of the biggest gaming launch in history -- the long-awaited U.S. debut of the Sony PlayStation Portable later this month -- is driving PSP sales in the rest of the world underground.

Sony understands that the gigantic U.S. market will make or break the success of their new gaming system, so they're pouring all their resources into satisfying voracious U.S. demand. The strategy is forcing global gamers to resort to shady, back-room, grey market haggling for non-local Sony PSPs.

Reuters reported yesterday that one tiny retailer in London is pushing "10 or 20 a weekend" at the price of more than $550 each. (The company sells them in Japan for about $190. Americans can pre-order them for $250.) PSPs now available in Europe are not purchased through authorized Sony channels -- Asian retailers buy extra, then ship them in bulk to European stores at double the price -- nor are they on display in the stores -- customers have to ask, then bargain with the shopkeepers.

What Reuters didn't mention is that those game units have Japanese system menus and need local adaptors. They're not getting the real European PSPs, though PSP games themselves are international and play in local languages.

The PSP squeeze in Europe is caused by Sony pushing back its European launch date -- by not days or weeks, but by months. The European launch date (originally March) is now June 24.

Canadian game shops are getting clobbered as well. You can no longer pre-order the PSP value pack in Canada -- stores there are having to order from American stores, and will pass the markup along to customers. And even many Canadians who have already ordered the value pack have been informed that those orders are being "yanked" and can't be fulfilled. Those customers are being offered a free upgrade to the "Gretzky Value Pack," which is a regular value pack with the Gretzky NHL game included. Pretty good deal, eh?

The U.S. is even squeezing the Japanese market. It has become nearly impossible to find PSPs in Japan, as Sony focuses all its resources on the American market.

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