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Rumours of a PS4 shortage in Canada are (slightly) exaggerated

May all your PlayStation shopping experience be as satisfying and awkward looking as this one: Andy Varadez, left, from Chicago, purchases a Sony PlayStation 4 from Best Buy sales manager Michael Centeno at Lincoln Park Best Buy store in on Friday, Nov. 15, 2013.

Nam Y. Huh/AP

Sony has one of those problems that's good to have if you are an electronics manufacturer and retailer: Too many people want its stuff.

The PlayStation 4 was sold out in Canada after its Nov. 15 launch, more than a million units sold worldwide in 24 hours. And as the holiday season kicks into frantic gear, social media has been alive with speculation that no new units will be in stores until January, or February. In response, people are now paying twice or three times the $399 console's list price to buy it off Kijiji or eBay.

But don't believe the hype, says to Sony Computer Entertainment Canada Vice President and General Manager Steve Turvey. If you're thinking of overpaying he suggest you hold off, with a little patience and a little diligence you don't have to fork over a ransom to a shady online seller. Customers should have the chance to buy one in stores as soon as this weekend, and in again in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

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Shipments to Sony's retail partners – including big ones like Best Buy, FutureShop, EB Games and Target – are leaving the Toronto-based warehouse in a "weekly to bi-weekly flow" (the bulk of new units arrive in the Port of Vancouver, travel by truck or rail to Toronto and then back out on trucks to the rest of the country).

For people in the GTA, this weekend may be a good time to stake out Wal-Mart, the big box merchant is planning a special promotion with hundreds of units across its 13 Toronto-area stores. Mr. Turvey suggests watching the social media feeds of your preferred retailer, many of them are communicating promotions to customers on Twitter or Facebook.

Mr. Turvey claims that PS4's arrival was by far the biggest games hardware launch in Canadian history (we'll see what happens to that record when after the first weekend of Xbox One, which went on sale Friday). "We sold more in our launch than PS3 did in 12 months," says Mr. Turvey. So, if you don't want to take the risk of leaving a store empty handed, he suggests shoppers pre-order online from a reputable retailer.

Demand for consoles is fierce this year, a Google holiday shopping intention survey found that of 50 per cent of surveyed shoppers intended to buy electronics gear, of them 36 per cent intended to buy a new console (new tablets and new phones were the other big categories).

"I think its obviously a really important time for gaming," says Mr. Turvey. "But things are not won or lost in a day, consoles are unique in that they have relevance or even more relevance 10 years from now."

Indeed, after the PS3's slow launch in 2007, with multiple reconfigurations of hardware and price point, the console eventually sold 80 million units worldwide.

As for the conspiracy theories that this is a manufactured shortage, he laughs and explains that he gets that question every time there is a hardware launch, but points out the simple realities: Sony is a publicly traded company (with an activist shareholder on its board) with an interest in showing a high volume of sales and returns as quickly as possible. It just doesn't make sense, particularly with another console launching at the same time, to deliberately deny customers a chance to buy a PlayStation 4. But social media might be right about one of the gripes Canadians in more rural and remote regions have had: Shipments are being concentrated in the biggest population centres that are showing the highest volume.

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What about the reports of a "blue light of death" bricking some of the new consoles? Mr. Turvey claims the issues are cropping up in "less than 1 per cent of total units sold … lower than most new electronic products," and reminds customers having technical difficulties that Sony's customer care information comes bundled in the box and should be the first place you call to try and resolve any technical problems.

He has one more warning for shoppers, if you are interested in the PlayStation Camara peripheral, grab it if you see it. Retailers are reporting shortages of those devices as buzz is spreading about things like the The PlayRoom game with its augmented reality robots.

So, a busy launch, and a challenging time for Sony and frustrated consumers waiting to get their hands on the latest gear.

"I take challenges as opportunities, in this case it's a challenge we relish… it's definitely worth the wait," says Mr. Turvey.

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About the Author
Technology reporter

Shane Dingman is The Globe and Mail's technology reporter. He covers BlackBerry, Shopify and rising Canadian tech companies in Waterloo, Ont., Toronto and beyond. More


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