Sony’s PlayStation 3 finally launched last week, but as predicted, supplies were extremely limited. Many stores received only a few units, and in some places, long lines combined with inconsistent preordering standards led to some very unhappy gamers. In some places, this anger led to violence. Now, Boston mayor Thomas Menino is planning to send Sony a bill for an incident that happened at Copley Plaza’s Sony Style store.
The store was mobbed by a crowd of over 500 people for the 5am opening Friday. “It was ridiculous,” said Fernando Villanueva, 22, of the South End, who had been camping out in the rain starting Wednesday and paid $630 for his PS3. “We tried to keep it orderly by creating a list and having a roll call every half hour,” he said, in an interview with the Boston Herald. “But the store said our list was meaningless; it’s going to be a mad rush, and whoever gets through the doors first gets one.”
Police were called in to manage the crowds, and they eventually forced the store to honor the list. However, customers in other areas weren’t so lucky.
A man in Wisconson was injured after he was trampled by a mob rushing to get their PS3s. A Wal-Mart in California had to be closed after a similar incident. And two gunmen in Connecticut tried to rob a whole group of people waiting in line to pick up their hot new game console. Michael Penkala refused to give up his money and was shot. He is now in stable condition in a hospital in Worcester, MA.
A spokesperson for Sony said that 400,000 PS3s were all the company could produce for the launch, and that the ensuing buyer chaos was “not something we planned or foresaw.” Nasty shopping incidents are not uncommon during the Christmas season, when emotions are running high and everyone wants to buy the hottest new product. Ultimately, this latest round of violence is not Sony’s fault directly but the fault of the people perpetrating the acts in question. However, given that Sony owned the Copley Plaza store, they should have taken the responsibility for crowd control themselves. Not all retail outlets had the kinds of problems that plagued the Sony Style store: the Landmark Best Buy in Boston cancelled a planned midnight launch when the crowds became unmanageable, and managed to avoid any major incidents through the use of a ticketing system. In the end, it’s sad to see what should be a joyful event (a new console launch) turn sour for anyone.