OPINION: Pre-order fanfare signals start of true next-gen tension

PlayStation and Xbox are priming retail partners as to how much next-gen console stock will be available on day one.

This signifies the real start of festivities in the new console war, as retailers are encouraged to hustle punters for pre-order deposits.

The first wave of pre-orders from the early adopter core were a given. Now it’s time to push that further, and in the case of the cash-strapped customer, pick a side. PS4 or Xbox One. Sony or Microsoft.

Only Sony really knows just how scarce PS4 will – or won’t – be come launch time near Christmas.

Those who lived through the allocation debate around PS2 and the manufacturing set-backs of PS3 will know that measures calling time on ‘pre-order guarantees’ might be as much a PR move as a genuine precaution.

Is this a hype-building move or a way to temper expectations? It’s both, of course.

And either way, it’s worked. Retailers tell us that pre-orders figures are hugely encouraging. But they also accept that one or two late-to-decide customers might walk away without a console. That’s the mixed blessing of a ‘sold out’ sign: an eye-catching proof of healthy demand, but also a point of momentary frustration.

Perhaps Microsoft has taken the best tact on this.

It too will likely switch to saying its pre-order figures are fulfilled eventually.?But I doubt one of the biggest corporations on the planet hasn’t planned for this.

That’s why right now it is happy for the message to imply no one will leave a retailer empty-handed when Xbox One lands in November.

As the entire market builds towards one of the most anticipated moment in years, retailers are likely going to be thankful for every unit they can get, regardless of format.

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