Marketplace: PlayStation's Midnight Madness

Sony's newest game system, the PlayStation 3, went on sale at midnight, but short supplies and intense demand have led to unrest outside stores. Sony has a lot riding on the PS3. Madeleine Brand talks with Marketplace's Amy Scott.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY.

Sony released its long-awaited PlayStation 3 today. If you happened to drive by a Best Buy or a Wal-Mart last night, you might have seen the crowds of people lined up to buy one. Camped out, actually.

Marketplace's Amy Scott joins us now. Amy, who are those people who were waiting for days outside these stores to buy one of these things?

AMY SCOTT: Many of them are gaming enthusiasts, to put it mildly. But plenty are in it for the money. People who managed to buy one of these machines for between five and six hundred dollars were selling them on eBay this morning for as much as $10,000. Because of production problems, only 400,000 of the consoles were available today. And it's likely Sony won't be able to ship enough of them to meet holiday demands. So that's why you're hearing stories today of violent stampedes. There was a shooting outside one store in Connecticut during a robbery, and apparently lots of heckling of those waiting in line.

BRAND: Amazing. Ten thousand dollars. Well, I'm wondering, was this shortage real or was it hyped by Sony?

SCOTT: Well, apparently Sony has had genuine problems getting these machines made. The debut is six months late because of problems with the built-in DVD player. Jeff Gerstmann is an editor at GameSpot, a gaming news site. He says Sony would love to have more of these on the shelf.

Mr. JEFF GERSTMANN (GameSpot): They could sell twice as many on day one if they had the inventory. So you know, even if they were trying to create kind of false hype around it, I think they would still at least like to have a million out there on day one, because they could definitely move all them.

SCOTT: And there's a point where scarcity just helps your competitors. I mean Nintendo's got its own new console, the Wii, coming out on Sunday. And it's much cheaper. Microsoft's Xbox 360 will likely pick up some of the slack. And Gerstmann says Sony has a lot riding on this machine - the whole corporation, really. It plays movies, so Sony pictures is counting on it. It has an online store aimed at competing with Apple's iTunes. So the record labels are in on it as well. And Sony says half its profits come from gaming. So it can't really afford to fail.

And later today on Marketplace, we'll find out why intelligence agencies are having a tough time recruiting spooks.

BRAND: Thank you, Amy. Amy Scott of Public Radio's daily business show Marketplace, produced by American Public Media.

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