Sept. 17, 2020

PS5's Pricing Highs and Pre-Order Lows

PS5's Pricing Highs and Pre-Order Lows

Next gen is here...if you're lucky enough

After months and months of anticipation, lack of communication from both Sony and Microsoft, and the lingering threat of a pandemic pushing the new console generation back, pre-orders finally went live yesterday for the Playstation 5, and it wasn't without some controversy. As Matt takes a look at the Xbox side of things, let's focus on Sony and the Playstation 5 and look back at the PS4.


It's best to get the elephant in the room...well...out of it. Sony's PS5 showcase yesterday did a great job at doing just that, showcasing the console's games and some of its launch titles like Spider-Man: Miles Morales while also unveiling the next installment in the Final Fantasy franchise. But fans of the PS series of consoles weren't watching the showcase for the games yesterday. Gamers wanted a price and release date, especially after Microsoft finally bit and announced their lineup last week.

Luckily, Sony didn't disappoint. The Playstation 5 launches on November 12th and will retail at $499 for the system's physical edition and $399 for the popular digital edition. There was some confusion near the end of the stream, as a pre-order date was not announced. No, just minutes after its conclusion, that date was set for today...yes, today with a very nonchalant tweet from the official Playstation Twitter account. That move would proceed Xbox's pre-order date of 09/22 by five days, an aggressive and smart move by Sony. Unfortunately, things spiraled out of control.

Wanting to bank on the excitement and cash out quickly, many big retailers like Gamestop, Walmart, Target, and Best Buy opened their pre-orders shortly after Sony's 09/17 announcement. Now, this isn't unheard of; in fact, it's very common practice, but it ended up being problematic for several reasons and created widespread chaos and anger among those looking to purchase the new console.

I think they meant as early as yesterday?

Let's start right at home. Having the idea that things like this happen a lot, I decided to drive the one minute to my local GameStop to see what information they had about when pre-order would go live (now today). Much to my delight, I was told I could pre-order right then and there, and that's precisely what I did. Many buyers had a similar experience walking into their local stores, though it varied from shop to shop. Thrilled that I could secure a PS5, I let my friends know that they should head to their GameStops and do the same.

I ended up being extremely lucky, though, and this is where the situation turned bad. Sites that didn't crash like Walmart and Target sold out almost instantaneously a day ahead of schedule (Walmart says pre-orders will re-open on the 22nd). As for GameStop, their website was completely overloaded, and if you were lucky to get through, you walked away with a PS5. 

Best Buy had it the worst by far, as their site suffered catastrophic failures to the point where it closed and later re-opened pre-orders. Customers would be at the final checkout phase, only to look at a spinning wheel for over two hours and then be told the console was no longer in stock.

At the end of the day, gamers got their pre-orders, and Sony got their money, so what is the problem? For one thing, after months of waiting and a complete lack of communication, Sony made it a point to reassure fans that they wouldn't just spring the pre-order date on people, that they would have ample time to prepare. That clearly did not happen. Now, I'm sure most will say putting up pre-orders the day after the Showcase is plenty of time; it's common practice for game companies and major tech companies like Apple.

But the fact that retailers jumped the gun and Sony did nothing to shut it down is in bad faith and has undoubtedly left a bad taste in PS5 buyers' mouths. Sony once again seemed to take Xbox out back with their aggressive price announcement yesterday, but the pre-order disaster may have turned some fans looking to buy one over to Microsoft and Xbox, who's pre-orders don't go live until this Tuesday. I believe that this will have no real impact on Sony as this proved just how much demand is there for the Playstation 5.

Price Point:

Disclaimer. I think console wars are stupid. Let people play on what they want to play on. I've been a PS guy my whole life. I'm 99% Matt can say the same about Xbox. That being said, Sony and Microsoft are rival companies and want to lure fans to their side via the games and hardware that they make. Over the past few months on our show, we've taken a stab at the price point both consoles would cost, and we pretty much were dead on despite the price chicken the two companies played with each other.

Microsoft finally bit first last week. Fans expecting a higher-priced Xbox Series X were thrilled when the console was announced at $499, the same price the Xbox One launched in 2013. Alongside the Series X, Microsoft announced the less powerful but highly affordable Xbox Series S (what do these names even mean?) at just $299. On paper, the Series S is quite a powerful machine, even next to its behemoth of a brother, supporting ray tracing, variable refresh rates and shading. No, the Series S won't run games in 4K, instead, locked in at 1440p. If you don't have a 4K television yet, the Series S may be looking mighty fine right about now.

Sony's showcase yesterday afternoon may have cut short Microsoft's momentum, though. With the physical edition of the PS5 being priced at the same $499 price point as the Series X, there's no real tug of war. Xbox gamers will buy an Xbox, and PS5 gamers will purchase a Playstation. But hold on. If you remember, Sony also announced a digital edition of the console, and it was announced yesterday that the disc-less PS5 would come in at just $399. Why is this a big deal? Doesn't Microsoft have the Series S at one hundred dollars cheaper? 

Yes, but the Series S is a dumbed-down, less powerful Series X. For $100 dollars more, the PS5 digital edition has the same exact insides as its disc drive counterpart. If I'm a gamer looking to get the best bang for my buck, it's an easy decision. But there is such a thing as brand loyalty. While many are touting this price point as a knockout blow to Microsoft, brand loyalty does exist. That all being said, I don't know how well the Series S is going to sell, and judging by the trends I was tracking last night during the pre-order madness, the digital-only PS5 was selling out much faster than the physical.


As for the release date, there's not much separating the two consoles. In fact, the release date of the Xbox Series X and Playstation 5 is separated by just 48 hours, with the Xbox on November 10th and Playstation the 12th.

Looking Back at the PS4:

Without a doubt, the PS4 has given me my favorite gaming memories out of any console I've owned. While Sony's fourth iteration of the console didn't have the best launch lineup, the games and PS exclusives that followed its release were some of the best games ever made. Uncharted 4: A Thief's End not only brought a fitting conclusion to the series (is any series ever really over?) but was revolutionary at bridging the cinematic/gameplay gap. Horizon: Zero Dawn still goes down as one of the best games I've ever played.

Horizon wasn't just an amazing gaming experience, it was absolutely gorgeous as well.

Of course, there are non-exclusives like the Destiny and FIFA franchises, but they've been a significant part of my core games since the early days of the PS4.

Even at the end of its life, PS4 has churned out some of its best games, specifically The Last of Us II and Ghosts of Tsushima. Remasters like Tony Hawk: Pro Skater gives us a nice distraction while waiting a little under two months for launch. It's going to be hard to say goodbye, but as is tradition with every console generation, it's out with the old and in with the new.