Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The 360 Mini-Game

I've been desperately trying for several weeks to find a 360 for a friend of mine for Christmas. I'm not actually giving it to him--I'm in procurement. His wife is Santa. I just have to find one.

Which has been, actually, impossible.

The reason I mention this is because it indicates how well Microsoft has managed supply and demand for this product. They've done a masterful job of stoking people's desires. Sure, I'm pissed off that I haven't got one--I would do just about anything to help out this friend--but Microsoft has totally won the war of public perception with this product. Totally.

Here's what I've been doing, basically. Every day, every half hour that I'm home, I check this website:
That site automatically checks inventory at approximately seventy different Xbox 360 URL's, usually multiple bundles for each vendor. Here's a list of merchants:
Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Best Buy, Buy.com, Circuit City, CompUSA, eCost.com, KBToys, Kmart, NewEgg.com, Radio Shack, Sam's Club, Target, Wal-Mart, ZipZoomFly.com, EB Games, GameStop, DVD Empire, and JC Penney.

Some of these bundles are for the core system or cost two thousand freaking dollars (thank you, Target bitches), but there's a nice selection of premium systems not bundled with a ton of games.

Now you would think that if I'm checking every half hour for most of the day, it would be absolutely no problem to get a system. Wrong. The closest I came was last week, when I took Eli 4.4 out to lunch (getting home about two hours later than my regular routine) and missed a premium system with no games in stock at Circuit City by about thirty minutes..

I'd heard last week that Best Buy was going to have a drop of 300,00 systems on Sunday the 18th. Golden opportunity.

I got up on Sunday at 7 with Eli, immediately checked the Best Buy circular, and saw that the stores were opening up at 8 a.m. during the Christmas shopping season.

Oops. Didn't see that coming.

There's a store about fifteen minutes from us, then another one in the relative sticks about ten miles north of that (the other stores in our area are all very high volume). I knew how many systems each store was getting, so I was confident I could gauge the line (if any) at the closer store, then race up to the store in the sticks if I had to. Solid plan.

At 7:30, we leave the house. Eli 4.4 is all amped up about helping get a Christmas present, particuarly because my friend made a semi-magical impression on him the only time they've met. We pull into the Best Buy parking lot at 7:50. Cake, I'm thinking. Absolutely cake.

There are over A HUNDRED people in line.

Holy shit. It's not even eight in the morning on a Sunday and the line stretches for fifty yards. It's insane.

It's at that moment that I realize that Microsoft has, without any question, kicked ass. That would be an outstanding LAUNCH line. To have that kind of demand a month later is nothing short of outstanding.

I know how many systems that store is getting, and it's not enough. So I tell Eli we're headed to the store in the sticks. "WOO HOO!" he says. "I'm in a BAD ATTITUDE! LET'S GO!"

He still gets a little mangled on word meanings, but he was totally "enthusiastica" about the trip.

We pull into the Best Buy parking lot at 8:05 and walk into the store. Over fifty people in line at the front of the store, and this store only got half the allocation of the store we just left. I ask the employee at the front of the store, hoping for a miracle, but she shakes her head and says that every system is already spoken for by the line.


So the demand for this system is so great that just getting one has turned into its own mini-game. That is marketing genius. Sure, some people are going to be upset, but how many of those people won't buy a 360 the minute they finally see one in the store?

Not many, I'm guessing.

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