Last week when Sony finally unveiled the Playstation 5, things were looking pretty good. Though there were few exclusives lined up for launch, the system came with the promise of many new, quality games further down the line. The new generation of consoles was finally here, and Sony announced that pre-orders would be available the very next day. But then something happened. Rather, a million different things happened.

But first, let’s rewind a little. It’s been nearly seven years since since the last console generation when the Playstation 4 and Xbox One first hit shelves, and Sony and Microsoft have decided that it’s time to release a new generation of machines built with the most recent technology. Though the Playstation 4 and Xbox One have both developed into excellent consoles in their own right, there has been no shortage of excitement for the new generation.

Microsoft and Sony have played footsies around announcing the specs and price of their new consoles over the last several months, and the back-and-forth mystery is a model that has played off for both competitors, but overall better for Playstation. Playstation’s Twitter following has grown by 400,000 followers in just the last month.

Xbox’s, on the other hand, grew by half that amount. It’s safe to say that Sony’s device was generating much greater anticipation than Microsoft’s, and it’s easy to see why. Over the last two console generations, the Playstation has been home to exclusive titles that have shaped or shaken the medium like The Last of Us as well as blockbuster games with a captive audience, like Spider-Man. The Xbox, playing from behind after a weak start in 2013, has grown to become a very consumer-friendly machine in its own right and innovated with Xbox Game Pass, a cheap Netflix-like subscription service that provides access to a wealth of titles for download. 

But players don’t get excited about the chance to play existing games for cheap; they get excited at the promise of brand new ones. And Sony clearly wins out in that field - at least until yesterday, when Microsoft announced it would be acquiring Bethesda Softworks, developers of Skyrim and Fallout

Pre-order meltdown

In case Twitter followings don’t illustrate the point enough, Playstation’s Facebook Talking About Counts exploded in the days after the reveal as hype went rampant. Though, as we’ll discuss shortly, that may not all have been positive discussion.

In short, the rollout of Playstation’s pre-orders completely failed to capitalize on the hype for the console. Though Playstation said pre-orders would be available on the 17th, some vendors, like Walmart and Amazon, made their Playstation 5 pre-orders immediately available, defying Sony's statement and confusing consumers looking to buy themselves a brand new console. 





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The early release didn't work out in Sony's favor. Our data shows that both the Playstation 5 and the Playstation 5 Digital Edition failed to breach the top sellers on Amazon for games, and their placement will become even muddier with the launch of Xbox Series X and Series S pre-orders starting today. Trouble brewed even further when it became clear that there was a shortage of Playstations available for pre-order. Amazon began sending notice to customers that their Playstations may not arrive until well after the official launch date.

Things got so bad that Sony posted an apology on the Playstation Twitter account, conceding that the pre-order rollout “could have been a lot smoother,” and promising that more stock would be made available over the next few days. But it may be too little, too late. The Playstation 5 may not flop in comparison to the Xbox, but it certainly blew its significant head start. Microsoft’s neat announcement of its industry-shattering acquisition just one day before pre-orders for the Series X, along with its very simple rollout and marketing mocking Playstation’s mistakes, makes Sony look particularly bad and shifts any massive hype about the new releases in their competitor’s favor. 

Last generation, it was Sony mocking Microsoft for their archaic choices and failure to manage their own bureaucracy. Now, the tables have turned.

About the Data:

Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.

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