How Dick Smith's PlayStation 4 Midnight Launch Is Exploiting Consumers

It's not illegal. It's not technically unethical. But there's something off about Dick Smith's Official PlayStation 4 launch.

It's no secret that the PlayStation 4 is in high demand. Stocks are low. Retailers across the country are crying poor. If you didn't pre-order a console before November of this year your chances of walking into a store in Australia and walking out with a brand new PlayStation are somewhere between zero and absolute zero.

It's one of those rare moments in the games industry where pre-orders actually make sense — to consumers this time, as opposed to retailers and publishers as a means to judge demand. This time there is a genuine shortage and it should be first come, first served. Pre-ordering, in this specific case, is the only thing that's fair.

It's a volatile situation. It's Jingle Jingle All The Way in real life. Arnold Schwarzenegger is racing down the aisle in a slapstick comedy of errors. Only it isn't a 'Turbo Man' doll he's ripping from the cold dead hands of strangers, it's a PlayStation 4.

And now, a twist in the tale. Dick Smith announces, out of the blue that it has 300 — count them — 300 brand new PS4s up for grabs. They just found them lying around on the back of a lorry somewhere and now, out of the goodness of their hearts, they're putting them up for sale, during the official midnight launch at Dick Smith's flagship store in Sydney CBD this Thursday night. No pre-order necessary.

But there's a catch. In fact there are several catches.

Catch number one. In order to be eligible to buy one of the 297 PS4s you must enter a competition. Just to be clear, you are not entering this competition to 'win' a PS4, you are entering the competition for the right to 'buy' a PS4. The competition involves stating, in 50 words or less, what game you are most looking forward to playing on PS4 and why.

Catch number two. In order to find out how to enter the competition you have to 'like' Dick Smith on Facebook. You don't 'like' Dick Smith to enter. You 'like' Dick Smith to find out how to enter.

Okay let's just recap before we go any further: you are liking a Facebook page in order to find out how to enter a competition for a chance to win the opportunity to buy a PS4.

It almost beggars belief.

But incredibly, there is one final catch.

Winners of the competition for the chance to buy a PlayStation 4 from Dick Smith will not be told in advance whether or not they have 'won'. The winners will be announced on the night at the midnight launch in the city. Meaning that thousands of people will likely make the trip into the city, on a Thursday night, wait until the winners are announced and go home, empty handed without a PS4.

So again, another recap.

Dick Smith is asking you to like their Facebook page to find out how to enter a competition for the chance to buy a PlayStation 4. They are then asking you to travel into the city alongside possibly thousands of other consumers desperate for a PlayStation 4 and wait to be told whether or not you have the right to walk up to the counter and pay money for a console.

Is this real life? I cannot fathom how everyone involved in this event — Sony, Dick Smith — is justifying this event.

It's exploitation of consumer demand, plain and simple. An opportunistic attempt to gather a large, rowdy group of people at one specific focal point in Sydney for a glorious photo opportunity: 'look how many people queued up to buy this in-demand consumer device. Look how many of them came to Dick Smith in order to do so!'

On the face of it, it's a pretty horrible trick to pull on the people who want to spend money in your store.

I get it: the PlayStation 4 is sold out. You probably won't be able to buy one of these consoles, without a pre-order, before Christmas. This is a last chance gasp for folks to buy one and Dick Smith are taking full advantage of that fact. But this is a step too far. It's a nefarious marketing inception gone two levels too deep. It's downright nasty.

There are people who have pre-orders on PlayStation 4 consoles. They pre-ordered late so their console cannot be guaranteed by whichever retailer they chose to buy from. They are currently waiting by the phone waiting to see whether or not they will get their PlayStation 4 before Christmas. Meanwhile, 297 consoles that could have had their names on them are being used as part of a convoluted, exploitative publicity stunt designed to grab some quick and grubby headlines.

It's not right and it sure as hell isn't fair.

[Update: Dick Smith has responded to criticisms of its PS4 launch competition. Head here for more.]


    I predict at least one "winner" gets their new PS4 stolen.

      And the other 'winner' gets a free PS4 as a result.

      Not just stolen. People have been killed for way less.
      I'd like to think humanity can keep itself together, but this has random acts of violence written all over it.
      And then they would say "but there's no way we could have predicted people would lash out"

      dot dot dot.
      If you form a mob, then give a small amount of the mob presents and tell the rest to go home empty handed in the cold night, there's some clear ways that could go, and it worries me.

      And at least one 'winner" sells their PS4 for profit once they leave the store.

    What a dick move.


        I like how you distilled the joke down to its very fundamental basis. bravo.

          Honestly the desire to mimic Reddit's "Best PUN gets the most up-votes" system is kinda lame.

          This is 'straya, only thing getting up-voted should be complaints about migrants and Paul Hogan quotes.

          Last edited 27/11/13 12:48 pm

      Got email, read what was required, thought "which idiot would do that?".
      Remember the world is full of idiots, good luck to them.

      How is it hanging, you ask... Short, shriveled and always to the left :P

    Sounds like fail to me. Rather than giving people a reason to like Dick Smith Electronics their instead just going to be irate and more likely to buy somewhere else! What idiots.

      I already refuse to shop there.

        As do I

          The staff at the Perth CBD store are really good when they're not crazy busy. At least, well, the staff member with a great rack who was helping me look for something for about half an hour.

          OK, I was staring down her top the whole time while she was leaning forward looking for what I wanted over a low display.

    Yeah that sucks but I would imagine your chances of bagging a PS4 there are decent, I don't really expect thousands of people to show up.
    Lets be brutally honest here, there's really nothing worthwhile on the PS4 you can't play elsewhere for the immediate future.Knack?Killzone?Hardly systeem sellers.

      I don't expect many to show up. I wouldn't bother unless I lived in, or very near to the city. This 'competition' would be a lot more legit if they could just tell you whether or not you could buy a PS4 at launch a few hours before.....

      P.s. I think Killzone looks great, system seller for me :)

      Yeah. Judging by the scalping prices on eBay for PS4s everyone either isn't that interested in owning one this close to launch or most people willing to go out of their way already have a pre-order.

    I'm usually "Rah rah, F- the man", but I don't see how this is grubby. Everyone who preordered will get the console on the date they were promised. Obviously this is a PR stunt, but why is that bad?At least the people who go in will really want it!

      You save up your money to buy a PS4 and get told a shop doesn't have it because it's out of stock. THAT is fine. THAT is a risk of retail.

      You save up your money to buy a PS4 and get told you have to attend the midnight launch just to enter a prize draw to possibly but not likely win the "privilege" to shop at a place to buy a PS4 at full retail price because they're currently at low volume...

      ...and you don't see an issue with that?


      I'm a former DSE employee myself, 1999-2003 Carindale, Capalaba, Brisbane City, Stones Corner stores (casual at all of them, full time 2002 at Capalaba) and I'm embarassed now at the shitpile this company has become since the company changed its business plan.

        Yeah - I really don't see the problem. the other alternative is an Apple style - first come first serve line up.

          I don’t have a problem with the Facebook ‘like’ or the stupid competition. Those things are mindly dickish moves but not outright asshole-ery.

          The part that irks me is not doing the draw until midnight, at the store. Dragging people out in the middle of the night with their hundreds of dollars so they can potentially (and likely) be told that they CAN’T buy a console, just so they can get a bunch of extra people show up at their store, is f*cking low. Just draw it during the day and send out emails to the winners.

          It also puts people at totally unnecessary risk. I would imagine that there’s going to be a lot of grumpy people at that store when it gets past midnight and people are being sent home empty handed, tempers could well fray. You’re also unnecessarily dragging people into the city at midnight on a weekday to spend several hundred dollars, it’s a recipe for disaster.


            Did they hire the marketing staff from GAME or something?

              I'm pretty sure Brett Leyshon (he was the person representing Dick Smith in a previous article) came from EB Games.

          the problem is that anyone that 'wins' the opportunity to buy a console doesn't find out until they turn up on the night.
          300 consoles, potentially a few thousand people turn up, only to be disappointed.

          if they're gonna run a ballot to do this, they've gotta notify 'winners' in advance.
          at the moment, its just gonna serve to get lots of pissed off people in one spot.

        It's all YOUR fauly dammit. After you left things just went downhill... I blame YOU! :p

      That would be why he prefaced the piece with technically not unethical. Just something off.

      300 people who DID pre order, aren't getting their console at launch because dse want a publicity stunt instead. possibly thousands of desperate people will enter this crap and turn up only to leave very disappointed. in all honesty, i hope people see this for what it is, and just ignore them.

        Those 300 people didn't pre-order for the launch day release. They pre-ordered for the December 24th release. They will still get it for the date that they were initially told. If they wanted it on the release date, they should have pre-ordered earlier. These 300 were never on offer for pre-order.

        Last edited 27/11/13 11:34 am

          people pre order it to get it as soon as humanly possible. the next 300 people on the list to get the thing would jump at the chance to get it on launch. many who are in the second shipment weren't told when they'll get it until recently.
          so, yes, 300 people are missing out on a launch console because dse are a bunch of c**ts.
          i think most people who pre ordered didn't get told initially whether or not they'll get it on the 29th. i personally know of a couple of people who are pretty disappointed they missed out. not all through dse, but overall.

            Look - those 300 were in the first shipment. No one is missing out on something they were promised. I repeat - there was never any opportunity to preorder those 300 consoles, any more than the 6 JB hifi is giving away.

              Here's an analogy.

              A family goes to a restaurant and order burger and chips.

              They wait 20 minutes.

              They wait 40 minutes.

              A new family goes to the same restaurant and orders Duck a l'orange, and get served immediately.

              Burger family is peeved that they've not got served yet.

              The restaurant explains that the wait time for burgers are longer than that for duck l'orange.

              What's the point of the analogy?

              That the restaurants response is BS and will in no way appease the burger family.

              Same with DS.

              By skipping over those customers that did the right thing and put their money down, DS are basically putting their fingers up at their loyal customers.

              This goes to show the attitude of their management.

              It sucks.

              This is not the only example of DS sucking.

                Thats a completely rubbish analogy. The people who pre-ordered were given a time frame. If they have expectations about receiving it earlier, that's on them. If they are really keen, the can also enter the draw for early release.

                  OK, so if I say that both families were told that they'd receive their meals shortly, would that change things? What if the analogy were that both families were told that they'd receive their meals within an hour.

                  Yes, you're right.

                  The pre-order guys were told and agreed to a time frame, which hasn't, as yet, changed.

                  That doesn't mean that they're not being shat on.

                I'm figuring Thom's a current DSE employee or something, *noone* would vehemently defend a business practice like this if they weren't...

    So dog.

      Much Dick. Wow.

        *goes home*

          Here, I saved this for you: +1. Use it in good health, and know that Kotaku loves you to the extent a site can love you, without causing a lawsuit :)

            Solved. *strokes +1 protectively*

    They better have good security when people who come at midnight and don't get a PS4 revolt, because they will.

    Dick Smith was dead to me the day they decided to stop being an electronic hobby store and became just another vacant eyed gizmo retailer.

      Absolutely. As an ex employee of DSE who saw the start of this transition when I left in 2003 I whole heartedly agree.

        it's surprising really, I thought they'd reach rock bottom under Woolworths ownership, but looks like they've stooped even lower.

          Somebody must've burnt down Woolworths, and left us with a pile of smouldering Coles......

    wow. that is fucked. i knew about the comp, and thought it was pretty crap, but i didn't know they weren't telling the "winners" prior to the event.

    Its a shame really....
    The man "Dick Smith" was so against this sort of crap!
    I can barely believe that this is the same company he founded

      It's what you get when you sell out to a multi-national conglomerate. "Keep Australia Australian" he says, unless it's his own Australian company he sold to the overseas market to get rich in the first place...

        Agreed. Mr Smith is a hypocrite of the tallest order.

        He sold it to Woolworths Limited which was 100% Australian at the time, and made public statements saying that it should remain Australian owned when Woolworths announced they were selling the brand in 2012. DSE is now owned by Anchorage which is an Australian based equity group.

          Dick made his fortune selling cheap Asian electronics products made in sweatshops, but now that he is a wealthy man he is the champion of Aussie business. What a crock.

            yeah, damn him for being a successful Australian businessman trying to help other Australian businesses by creating Dick Smith Foods and only selling Australian owned and made products. What a bastard.

      Its gone through several sets of hands since he sold it too. Speaking to the guys in the store that is next to where I work they're none too happy with the working conditions and demands of the current owners.

    This is pretty shit, but at least the winners will only have to pay retail price, average price on ebay is around $800.

    Are my hopes that this competition will be a failure and no one will enter out of principle going to be crushed? Probably =/

    You've lived your entire life up to this point without a PS4. You can wait another month or two until they're readily available on shelves.

      It's how I'm doing it. We're waiting til august/september next year when our tax comes through, first round of games will be cheaper then too *shrug*

        But... but... SHINY!!!

        (Waiting until there are some better games available, personally.)

        Will the games be cheaper by then?

        Probably. BigW have good pricing on some of them already.

        Best thing though is PS+ - I've already got 2 PS4 games for free, how cool is that.

        Should have at least a few full retail PS4 games by mid next year.

        I'm thinking that with the PS4 I won't be buying many games at all - I'll just stick with PS+ free games, and $20 once they drop in price. And just buy one or two at a time, and not build an endless collection as I did this gen.

          Most likely yeah they will be because people will be trading in their first round games to buy the 2nd round games. Happened with the 360 and PS3 after all. They won't be like, 29 dollars, but the bargain bins will be starting to fill at least. For my first few games, to dip my toes in the waters that's how I'll be doing it.

      ^ This. For Godus' sake people wait till theres some games out for the thing!

      Not gonna be available to the walk in public until about may next year..

        Who told you that? The guy at the shop trying to get you to pre-order?

          I work for EB, we won't have much in the way of PS4's until the 2nd shipment around March or April 2014 :) Also to even get one currently you need to pre order. JB some how got themselves a 2nd shipment for December, but it's not many at my local store according to my mate there.

            I've got 2 mates with pre-orders at EB (2 different stores), one is due to get his 1 week after launch, the other 2 weeks after launch. So maybe some are getting stock more frequently than others?

              Couldn't say honestly, I only know what my manager has told me to be honest with you. We may be getting more in a few weeks, but they would be going to people who pre ordered I reckon.

    Or I could just wait until next year, and grab it when a few more games are out, possibly at a cheaper price.

    Your move, Dick.

    If you didn’t pre-order a console before November of this year

    November? You mean July 4th for a launch console..

      This. I preordered at the beginning of September and I don't get a day one console. And this is in Perth...

    Meaning that thousands of people will likely make the trip into the city, on a Thursday night, wait until the winners are announced and go home, empty handed without a PS4.

    That is EVIL.

      but is gonna give DSE some great publicity photos.
      and thats the entire point of this competition, as far as I can tell.

        Yea pretty much, a bump in fb likes and a couple photos.

        Also a whole bunch of poor kids shattered hopes when they line up till midnight to find out they can't get a PS4.

          I think it's a pretty scum thing to do. I felt pretty bad turning away mums and dads that were trying to get their kids Xmas gifts knowing that we have 300 odd consoles waiting to go.

    Can any of the blame for this disgusting behavior be aimed at Sony? I'd be VERY surprised if they would be stupid enough to support this kind of campaign.

      I don't see how? DSE are using their own stock of PS4's after all.

        i really do hope dse are just doing this on their own.

          Let's face it, DSE don't need Sony's or anybody else's help to look shonky - they're more than capable of doing it on their own. Remember their "huge" gaming sale a while back when all the good stuff was bought up by their staff before the doors even opened?

            Haha, yes! That was the final straw for me with DSE. I remember getting there to find two small two-seater tables pushed together with a sale sign on top, and multiple copies of the same shovelware which inundates every EB shop front - except that the selection of shovelware was really just three or four titles with dozens of duplicates.

            I took a photo of the table and noticed the awkward shuffling of the staff behind the counter.

            That was an atrocious 'sale', whereas this current stunt is simply an atrocity.

            To be fair mate that was never meant to be advertised. Some idiot at head office leaked the daily orders to the internet. Then they further mismanaged it by playing up the sale rather than quieting it down.

            Naturally they made this the line employee's fault so now we can't buy anything worthwhile to close of trade.

            They did something similar just last thursday with the friends and family sale. I took about 50+ calls about a $999 13" macbook air that we had ONE of at the start of trade. (No an employee didn't buy it before you ask.)

            Last edited 30/11/13 11:47 am

    Oh FUCK that!

    To rock up at midnight to see if you have the right to buy???

    Who was smoking what when they had that idea???

      I'm wondering how many 'winners' are going to be absent. Hmm. I wonder how many winners are going to be duplicate entries. Why wouldn't you borrow some family members Facebook accounts to sign up?
      I'm also sort of curious how they're going to handle the drawing. I would assume there's a lot of kids entering who don't have drivers licenses so it'd have to be a bit more organised than just calling out people's names one by one until all 297 were sold.

        It's almost a good way to get a riot going. If enough people show up and are pissed off by the way it's run.... stuff could happen.

        Terrible terrible idea. And whoever takes part in this needs their head read.

          I'm assuming it's going to be mostly mums trying to get one at late notice for Christmas, so odds are it'll be worse than a riot. =P

    I don't get the point behind it though? the demand to sell these 300 units is already there, so just put them on shelf and let people buy them!? why make people enter a competition to allow them to buy it when that person can just bring their money down and buy it anyway, it doesn't make any sense at all whatsoever.

    If Dickhead Smith think this is good promo for their Facebook page because they will get "likes", that doesn't make any sense either, because once people buy or aren't allowed to buy the unit, they'll just unlike them anyway because they were only liked for the purpose of the competition, which is now over.

    I really don't get it. Just stock them and sell them, they'll all go within 20 minutes easy.

      Yeah but then noones like your facebook page. Or has to come into the city at midnight. Why make it so easy:?

      I think it's really about the 'likes' on FB, people are so obsessed with numbers like that, even if they're backed up by nothing (ie fake account likes, bought likes etc) people place so much importance on it. When the numbers are a genuine reflection of the people of support your product or business it can be really useful to have a direct line to your fans, but usually it's just blown out by fakes to make the company appear more popular.

      I think they're probably betting on a fair amount of people forgetting they've 'liked' DSE and being left with an increase in 'likes' regardless of how many people they piss off and how many photos they get of the store packed full of people.

    I still haven't been into a DSE since that bullshit last year of the "SALE" where the employees kept all of the stock for themselves...
    And people are Dumb enough to go back to DSE to entrust them with their next generation console preorders...

      Agreed I went in for one of their one day sales crap for the go pro Black. Visited melb City store at 9.05am and 'sold out' visited 4 more by lunch and they were all sold out to some how. Stinks of bait and switch cause they offered me the lower model (not at discount). They are crooks.

        I was at the Jesmond Store with my room-mate, we were there at 7.30am were the first two there that morning, we watched as the DSE personnel went into the shops, and we watched them pull stock off the shelves and put them out the back...
        I watched as they pulled the headset I was planning on buying out the back, and the half Dozen keyboards out the back, then DUMPED in a bargain bin a bunch of crap.
        I was there when fifty people stormed the shop, I remember the look the scumbag salesman gave me when I asked about the Headset he put out the back, and his excuses of "It wasn't a sale for the eyes of customers"
        The people who worked that day are thieves, they broke the law...
        I have little to no respect for Dick Smith anymore, and as for "ActualDickSmithGuy" I find it hard to believe that Westfarmers would allow a severe breach of Australian EEO and Worker's Rights, Are you honestly trying to justify that breaking the law was OK because "I only get paid under $17.50 per hour"
        It was announced as a Gaming sale, on the Website, On Facebook and under ALOT of DSE's Official Channels after it was leaked, so to say it was "Never meant to go to Press" and try to act as if the consumers were in the wrong is a pathetic excuse indeed...

        Last edited 01/12/13 8:49 pm

      We get paid under $17.5 an hour and frequently get our commision ripped away from us without warning. One of the few perks we have is being able to occasionally nab something nice for ourselves.

      That gaming sale was never meant to go to press. But it was leaked at head office and then spread over the internet like wildfire.

      If it helps, they now have a policy during any worthwhile sale that employees can't buy anything till COB. They figure it's easier to do that than actually make sure the stores have stock before they do stupid stunts.

    I don't see the problem.
    It's just a matter of perceived value and risk vs reward.
    Those who don't want to participate, don't participate.

      It's the fact that they aren't announcing who 'wins' the chance to buy a PS4 until the actual launch thats bad. No reason why they couldn't announce the winners at midday Thursday.

      I agree, however......not telling people if they are eligible until they show up at midnight is rather ridiculous. Just let people know beforehand.

    Those who don't see a problem with this are exactly the kind of gullible saps DSE is aiming to get into their stores and disappoint at midnight...

      Actually no - I don't see the problem with it, because I can choose not to be participate (which I'm not by the way). If you really wanted a launch day console, you should have been more organised and pre-ordered one when there were still plenty available.

        Unless the store is holding them for shonky business practices like this, then you're shit out of luck buddy.

          But how is it shonky business practice? They are doing it to generate publicity which seems to be perfectly reasonable business practice. DSE is under no obligation to sell all the stock they currently have. By doing it this way, they are forcing people to participate in the event. Certainly it sucks for the rest of Australia given it is impractical for them to enter unless they fly to Sydney, but it really isn't anything more than annoying.

            It won't sell the consoles to people who have had their PS4's on order for months but is instead raffling them off in an effort to produce fake consumer interest in their Facebook page and 'midnight launch event'. A good question is infact, how close does this come to the 'bait and switch' laws in regards to customers who have preordered and are potentially not receiving their orders due to this holdover of stock.

            So yes, it is annoying, it is most definitely shonky and it is a massive Dick move by a company living up to the first part of its name. I'm sorry you guys can't (or don't want to) see it that way, I guess we have different standards of what being an asshole to people is, but I don't think pulling something like this on people really qualifies as 'being a good company'. Especially when those 300 consoles could've been used to give legitimate customers preorders to begin with instead of being held over for a mean spirited event to generate faux publicity and interest.

            Last edited 27/11/13 11:02 pm

              I never said they weren't assholes, I said it wasn't shonky business practice (shonky in my view alluding to something illegal). You're not exactly promoting your argument by calling everyone who disagrees with your opinion a 'gullible sap,' or apologising because I don't agree with you. You're criticising the author rather than the argument.

              Your point about the bait and switch laws is definitely something to think about, although as far as I'm aware those sections of the ACL are targeted towards the advertising of discounted goods with the intention of misleading the customer, rather than withholding limited stock.

              Basically what I get from the situation with DSE is that if you don't like it, buy somewhere else. As shitty as it may seem, DSE can deal with their consignment of PS4s as they see fit, even if it does seem to be alienating their customer base.

                (shonky in my view alluding to something illegal)

                Shonky means dishonest, illegal means illegal. There's a distinct difference. Because you may choose to view it one way doesn't make it so. If I wanted to say they were doing something outrighgt illegal, I'd say they were doing it. It's not illegal what they're doing, but what they're doing *is* shonky, dodgy, assholish and really, really mean spirited.

                The company can, within the confines of the law, choose to do with its stock what it wants, (however it has displayed instances in the past where the companies practices and the laws have butted heads... especially their little bait and switch campaign last year they got in trouble for), however, as a member of the public I am within full rights to declare openly what I think of this practice, as is everyone else. I'm also allowed to have my opinion on people who support the practices of such companies and are too 'forgiving' to them. They endorse such behaviour for example which leads to its repetition.

                In the end, I have my opinions, you have yours and we all have to agree to disagree because ain't one bit of shit changing in either my stance nor yours. I respect you have your opinion and you can respect I have mine, that's the best thing to do.

    Dick Smith is really trying to usurp Harvey Norman as having one of the worst reputations as a retailer in Australia...

    How could Dick Smiths PR/marketing not see this coming back to bite them in the ass?

      My guess is that they're highly paid professionals. With no real clue.

      DSE see massive 'exposure' with this promo. Which is something they desperately need as DSE has been under-performing for quite a while. I don't blame them for doing it but I question their methods. Not illegal but it smells bad......

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