In the continuation of a major European supply problem for Sony, stocks of PlayStation 2 hardware completely ran out in the UK over the weekend, with the new slim-line PS2 model becoming impossible to purchase either online or in High Street stores.
Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) commercial director Kevin Jowett has insisted that new stock will arrive this weekend, but most stores are advising customers that only those who pre-order in advance are likely to receive a console before Christmas.
The extent of the problem was evident in the official hardware figures for the week ending November 20th, which saw Sony recording its worst ever weekly performance since the launch of the PlayStation 2, at under £0.5 million ($0.95m).
Speaking in British trade paper MCV, Jowett admitted: "Our problem will be the supply chain, getting the product here and onto the shelves – it will be tight and I expect stores to be in and out of stock throughout December."
Unofficially, publishers are furious with Sony over their mismanagement of the situation, with many commentating privately that they risk losing millions of dollars in profit over the season.
Buena Vista Games’ Matt Carroll was one of the few to speak out publicly, commenting: "It is a huge shame to see the industry so ill-prepared for the peak season. This will be felt by many banking on this Xmas bringing in more sub-12 year olds."
Some have suggested that Sony has spent too much effort on manufacturing the PlayStation Portable, which will launch only in Japan this year, but SCE spokesperson Kenichi Fukunaga has stated the opposite.
Speaking in an Agence France-Presse article, he claimed that PlayStation 2 had been given priority over the PSP. "We are entering a phase where we profit greatly from PlayStation 2," Fukunaga is quoted as suggesting. "It was a matter of reaching the optimum allocation of our resources."
Although most stores still have stock, fears are also being raised over stock levels for the Xbox, with GAME buying director Alex Croft claiming: "This too may become tight in the coming weeks."
Nintendo are suffering no such problems, in part because of the patchy demand across Europe and particularly in the UK, although Nintendo UK boss David Yarnton has made some rather undiplomatic comments regarding the problems. "The shortage of other companies’ product is perceived in some instances as a sign of success," he said. "However, it can also be seen as poor planning and forecasting."
Europe has traditionally always been a low priority for hardware manufacturers, despite the continent as a whole actually taking over from North America recently as the world’s largest market for video games.