It wasn't always this easy.
When Sony released the PlayStation 2 console on October 26, 2000, there was no option to pre-order one from an online retailer. The only way to buy one and the coveted "system seller" game SSX was by showing up at a store on launch day and hoping one of the one million consoles Sony promised would be available on day one to purchase.
As the launch of PS2 approached, news of manufacturing delays began to surface which would negatively impact the one million unit allotment for launch. Demand for the $299 console was swelling by this time already so hysteria began to set in and massive lines formed many hours before stores held midnight launch parties to sell the new console.
My then girlfriend and now wife was in San Francisco on a business trip at the time of launch, so I asked her over the phone to try and get one from the Sony store. She got there a few hours before midnight thinking she would be at the front of the line, and the line was already extending far from the store entrance. She ultimately toughed out a chilly night and ended up snagging me the second to last PS3 they sold before turning the rest of the disappointed crowd away empty-handed.
PlayStation 3 arrived on November 17, 2006, and fueled a nightmarish situation for anyone who wanted to snag one on launch day. The PS2 launch fiasco was still fresh in peoples' minds so crowds amassed in force at launch events around the country. Despite a $600 price tag due in part to the inclusion of the then brand new Blu-ray technology, people were ready to lay out the Benjamins for a chance to play one and witness the sheer awesomeness of next-gen Madden football over Thanksgiving break.
As with PS2, the PS3 became impossible to purchase between launch and Christmas. Prices swelled to $1,000 and higher on Ebay, while online retailers like Amazon.com sold out of their inventory within minutes of putting them online. I was fortunate to receive one directly from Sony PR for review purposes, otherwise it would have been well into 2007 before an opportunity to buy one at retail would present itself.
Fast forward to today. Sony and Microsoft both surprised gamers when PS4 and Xbox One were available to pre-order shortly after their pricing was revealed at E3. This had never happened before with Sony and Microsoft, and gamers jumped on the opportunity to the tune of 2,500 units pre-ordered per minute at Amazon during the peak of E3 week.
It took less than 48 hours for Amazon, the only retailer offering a launch day guaranteed PS4 console outside of a bundle, to sell out of that sku. Sony allotted them more and soon after four PS4 bundles popped up at Amazon and remain there to this day.
We have it easy today. Obtaining a PS3 or PS2 at launch was a test of will, patience, and sheer luck that for many was not rewarded with success. Want a PS4 on launch day? Simply pre-order a PS4 launch day guaranteed bundle at Amazon with the console and a game, sit back, and wait for delivery in November without ever breaking a sweat.
That is assuming manufacturing delays don't rear their ugly head again. Hope I didn't just jinx it.
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