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The much anticipated Sony PlayStation 3 finally launched last Saturday in Japan. Most news reports mentioned the limited supplies -- estimated between only 80,000 to 100,000 units -- and naturally that the available units sold quickly. If it were not for email and blogs we may not have found out what was going on in the lines, or should I say front lines, when the PS3 launched.

Long story short, a reader of the popular gaming blog emailed his firsthand account of the launch including some video. It documents what seems like chaos with long lines, pushing, yelling, yakuza (Japanese mafia) apparently paying the homeless and non-Japanese (believed to be Chinese) to stand in line and buy PS3 hardware but no software, no police around to assist and et cetera. Kotaku published his story along with a picture and the videos.

It turns out the BBC picked up on the story in PlayStation 3 hits 'grey market', which Kotaku explains here.

The BBC quotes Kotaku editor Brian Ashcroft who said:

"I witnessed homeless people waiting in line as well as a high number of Chinese customers."

The Kotaku reader's main point as quoted by the BBC:

"Sony should be scolded for staging a national launch event with 80,000 units. An extreme lack of supply ignited an extreme surge of demand - that of which poor Chinese and opportunistic Japanese took full advantage of."

In the meantime there have been reports PlayStation 3s are appearing in used shops and auctions for up to 3x their retail price.

And now, Kotaku has received complaints that the reader's email and subsequent BBC coverage are racist.

For investors in Sony (NYSE:SNE), Nintendo (OTCPK:NTDOY) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), I don't think there are really any stock investing implications here, other than the botched launch due to severely limited supplies. Apparently this has been a common problem in Japan.

The launch has not done much for Sony's shares, which are mostly flat this week, losing about 0.4% yesterday in Tokyo. Nintendo, however, is trading at multi-year highs and reportedly closed yesterday in Tokyo at an all-time high. Both the Nintendo Wii and the PS3 launch in the U.S. this Friday. The Wii launches in Japan on December 2nd and there are reports 400,000 units will be available.

Sony (SNE), Microsoft (MSFT) and Nintendo (OTCPK:NTDOY) 1-year chart (11/15 intra-day):


Disclosure: The author does not own a position in any companies mentioned in this post.

Source: An Ugly Firsthand Account of Sony's PS3 Launch in Tokyo