The first shipment of PlayStation 2 consoles touched down on Australian soil Wednesday aboard a Russian Antonov aircraft, but the highly anticipated consoles will not spend much time on retail shelves.
Due for release next Thursday, Sony will ship 60,000 units between now and Christmas but retailers predict the first shipment will sell out in under a week, emulating overseas demand in Japan and the US.
"It is the most anticipated product launch we have seen in the IT area and demand has far exceeded supply," said Harvey Norman general manager for computers and communications, John Slack-Smith.
Sony Computer Entertainment (SCEI) expects its PS2 release to follow the popularity of its original product which has sold more than 70 million units since it was released six years ago.
Managing director of Sony Computer Entertainment Australia Michael Ephraim told ARN the company is forecasting around 200,000 units will move through the channel by March next year.
"The numbers are sketchy but by December 31, 2001, we could achieve anywhere between six and seven hundred units," he said.
A worldwide shortage of memory components used in the PlayStation 2 (PS2) has led to an across-the-board shortage of the long-awaited consoles. Over the last nine months, Sony has been building manufacturing facilities to ramp up production. The company predicts supply should be back on track by March or April 2001.
At Sony's annual Charity Ball last week the company auctioned Australia's very first console on sold.com.au, with retailing giant Myer Grace Bros nabbing the unit for $9000. The console will retail in Australia for $749.
Meanwhile, retailers have received substantially less than their preferred allocation and have been wary of taking pre-orders on the console. But they remain confident about the console's ability to create sales in the market.
"We started taking orders but stopped when we heard the number of units available was small," said the director of games retailer Gamesmart, Paul Demartino. "We have received about a quarter of the consoles we were hoping to get and the ones we have got will sell out in two or three days."
Demartino admits margin on console, which will retail in Australia for $749, is poor. However, he said PS2 games and accessories will provide great opportunities for retailers. Some dealers, such as the Games Warehouse in Sydney, are happy to bypass the console and just sell PS2 games titles.
"There has been an enormous amount of talk in the marketplace," Slack-Smith said. "At $749 the console has gone from being an impulse purchase like the PlayStation is today, to a considered buy, but we expect to be sold out by Christmas."