The build-up leading to the launch of the PlayStation 2 in the UK has been phenomenal. From the five minute segments on major TV channels to Sony's own bizarre yet lovable TV advertising. Almost every national newspaper in the United Kingdom carried news on the subject yesterday, most of them focusing on the fact that with the allocation here now limited to some 165,000 plenty of the original pre-orders will have not been fulfilled until the second batch, which according to a firm in Kingston may take anything from a fortnight to four weeks to appear. Stories of shop allocations halving on Monday are commonplace, and one reader told us of how a store spokesperson telephoned him up and spent five minutes not justifying his inability to fulfil the order but badmouthing Sony! Some of the stores that were able to honour their customers opened up early this morning to help meet with the demand; although all of the shoppers queuing outside our local Electronics Boutique this morning had already pre-ordered, they were taking no chances. "It's just so silly, it's only a games machine, surely it can't be all that complicated for them to put it together and stick it on the shops' shelves," said John from Watford, speaking of his anxiety at the possibility of missing out. But in actuality it has been difficult for Sony to put units on shelves. While stories about a switch in production methods for the Emotion Engine chip have now been rubbished by the very same PR agencies that first delivered them, Sony have found it incredibly difficult to keep up with demand, which was always going to far outweigh the needs of the many. "Even though I've paid £50 to make sure this thing is mine today," added John, "I'm not going to leave it to chance, come down here after work and find out they've sold it to some yuppie because he was quick off the mark." This sort of attitude is fairly common of buyers here in the South, where trust in the pre-order system is very thin on the ground. Bethan, a Media Consultant from Hemel Hempstead told us that she "wouldn't normally travel to Watford especially to pick up electronic goods," but what choice did she have? With many areas in the South running out of pre-order forms at the merest sniff of the general public it became necessary for many regulars to shop elsewhere. One man, Ben, also from Watford, was even turned away whilst we were camped outside. Apparently his form had been lost and despite phoning up to confirm his details the previous day, he had mistakenly believed he would be receiving one at launch. "I can understand EB aren't responsible for this, but it's a complete farce. They can't expect thousands of Dads not to trot down here to pick up the bloody thing for their children, it's what we do," he said, leaving to apologetic looks from the staff and other PS2 buyers. The situation for online buyers is even worse. While some were able to honour their commitments, the spread was very much fifty-fifty. This writer even got hold of his a day early from Gameplay online, but fellow contributor Simon Quirk who ordered practically within the same breath as myself has heard hide nor hair. What's more worrying is that while I received a phone call two days prior to taking delivery of the machine, when contacting Gameplay, Simon was told that he had to wait for a call from Sony! Ever eager to look on the bright side though, Simon pointed out that "I'm actually pleased about the delay, nothing in the launch lineup grabs attention and there's a shed load of games I want to play on the Dreamcast." With Sega and Nintendo both releasing a slew of impressive new titles this morning, his opinion may be shared by many. The PS2 may be something new and may have titles like SSX and Tekken Tag Tournament to its name, but can they really compete with the rushing fury of games like MSR and genius of the long-awaited Shenmue? Even the humble PlayStation has something to offer on a day when it should be mourning its own demise. The vivacious Dino Crisis 2 is released this morning and for those not able to pick up ISS for the PS2, an original PSX version is going on sale. The Dreamcast is actually a touch barren today, with really only Super Runabout and Tomb Raider Chronicles to its name, but in recent weeks MSR amongst other notable releases have kept the sales firmly in the "through the roof" category. With Shenmue on the horizon the PlayStation 2 really does have some catching up to do. Everybody by now is aware that this country is only receiving 165,000 units or thereabouts, but the situation elsewhere in Europe is even worse. France has been granted a meagre 70,000, with only 20,000 going on sale over the counter. The rest via a pre-booking system. The rest of Europe shares the remaining 265,000 or so between them, if indeed they are lucky enough to get that. Europe has for a long time been one of the biggest epicentres of console sales in the World, and I dare say we're tired of being treated like second-rate gamers. Even Chris Deering, SCEE's man in charge couldn't find words to satisfy the masses hungry for blood early this week, retiring into his office and refusing press interviews. His comment last night, that Sony "would not have delayed the launch in Europe for a month, which cost us a lot of money, if we had had the quantities we requested from Tokyo." Ultimately the consumer is the most important part of the equation for Sony's business, and it looks as though while some are going away happy this morning, others feel let down, upset and perhaps even cheated. "It's not the way to run a business," Ben told us.
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