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.]


    Holy shit, this would be the MOST BORING launch of all time. Standing around in a crowd while three hundred names are read out, one by one. You can't have entertainment or loud music or anything else going on, because otherwise no one would hear the announcer.

    Also ethics yadda yadda

    Last edited 27/11/13 11:54 am

    IF you dont like it, dont support it. Personally I think its a stupid idea and i hate those "you must like us first" things (thay arent alone in those things) but hey arent exploiting anyone who doesnt want to be exploited. in fact some might even like this idea and think its fun.

    I just hope they are thought through their security once it all goes pear-shaped.

    Mark, I don't think you read the terms and conditions carefully before writing the article.

    There will be one winner of the 50 word "most awaited game" competition who gets a free PS4.
    There will be one cosplayer who gets a free PS4. (Runner-up gets a Vita)
    There will be one FIFA tourney winner who gets a free PS4. (Runner-up gets a Vita)

    Not that I disagree with the general sentiment of getting people to turn up on the off-chance that they might be able to buy a PS4, but they could WIN a PS4 instead.

    I'll just mention this...

    I was at the dse website and saw a really well priced bundle.

    Playstation 4 Ultimate Pack


    Contains 6, count them, SIX, PS4 games + dual shock 4 + headphones + dual shock charger + ps4 stand.

    Bargain right,

    One catch.

    It doesn't include a PS4.

    I'm sure some will point out that there is a $198 discount from full retail price, but come on. $799 for a PS4 bundle that doesn't include a PS4.

    That's just not right.

    Last edited 27/11/13 12:17 pm

      Yeah but that $200 is off RRP. Name any shop worth their salt that sells things for RRP anymore? besides manufacturers.

      JB is selling most of those games in the 6 for $79. Target and Big W are doing even cheaper.

        Yep, that's my point too. Not the only point.

        My main point is that DSE are selling a PS4 for $250 over the price of a PS4, and the bundle doesn't even include a PS4.

        Why would DSE do this?

        Pure money grab.

        Hey dude, whilst ur all giddy about the PS4 hype, why not double the costs incurred by buying all of these games and accessories at a price discount that is of no real benefit.

    I'm still angry that I didn't get my cheap DS!

    The other dodgy thing is they've dressed up a game of chance under the guise of a game of skill in order to avoid falling foul of gambling laws. I'm sure they're not really going to go through thousands of entries trying to pick which 300 had the best justification for wanting a game.

    Good time to be a pick pocket. Thousands of people all with $600+ in their pockets

      Yep, and they'll all be paying cash money.

    Is it any worse than an Apple launch with people lining up around the clock?

    The whole thing was fine, UNTIL I read that they aren't announcing winners till the night. THAT is some bulls**t right there. seriously.

    Also, I doubt Sony really has any say in the matter. At the end of the day, those 300 consoles are being SOLD, if they were being given away for free, then yeah I am sure Sony could pull the idea, but at the moment Dick Smith is acting within it's rights. Unfortunately.

    Can you imagine how ANGRY the crowd is going to get as the 300 names are read out, when it gets down to like 10 names left everyone will go nuts.

    Horrible promotion and it won't end well, depending on the amount of people attending, Dick could be doing riot control on the night.

    Very sad to see 300 people that would have pre-ordered miss out because Dick withheld stock for walk-ins.

    It really is a scene out of Jingle all the way.

    Most people seem to be very confused by this article and what DSE's PR have cooked up.

    The 300 consoles they're using for the midnight launch were NEVER EVER intended to goto the people who pre-ordered for before Xmas stock. So why can't DSE do this stunt? It's THEIR stock. They can do with it WHATEVER they want. How does that not make sense?

    I understand the way they're going about the "competition" to get people into their store is ridiculous and wrong, but the people who are complaining that they have a pre-order for AFTER 29th Nov launch, they shouldn't be complaining at all. They were given their time-frame, they're still getting their consoles. End of discussion.

      I've had to turn a lot of people away that could of brought those consoles for their kids.

    I can SOO see this becoming violent.. it's a disaster waiting to happen. Especially at MIDNIGHT in a major city.

    Sony and Microsoft will certainly make sure there is enough stock over Christmas seriously sick of hearing the crap from stores there will be no more shipments till 2014. Thats utter crap there will be stock for Christmas.

    Good on them, exploit the neck beards for all you can I say. I'd bump the price up to $800-900 a console if I could, you know they'd still all sell instantly.

    Imagine if you actually win a ps4 and you walk pass while holding your ps4 through the many many ones that don't have a ps4.... I see death.

    Just another reason why consoles are shit, ill wait.

    I am a little bewildered by all the bad behavior from nearly all retailers regarding this years launch of Next Gen consoles.. EB Murwillumbah NSW have got a gall.. They have stung me over the years but I just never learn this time I layby's my PS4 on August 20 and and My Xbox one early November.. spectacularly missing out on a Launch PS4 and a Day One Xbox and Fifa 14.. and I just happened to be in the store on Xbox ones launch day and there was 2 people there.. the dude behind the counter and I have been dealing with EB for well over 10 years now but I have moved so I dont know these new people well the dude behind the counter said "hey Marc" "you've paid for your PS4 in full and you will definitely miss out till next years so why not transfer some of your money from that to you Xbox one Pre Order and then you can take it today.. " I said um well I have paid it in full are you sure I will definitely not get it till 2014? he assured me of this.. so I grudgingly agreed to transfer $200 to the X Box One and a game.. Forza 5.. well I now look at my receipt and it says PS4 pre Order November 22..??!! said what the hell is this?? I never cancelled it?? I didn't change the date.. he said that how it works so aint nothing he can do.. so I email EB customer support and they said pretty much the same thing.. I have spent no shit thousands of dollars at their stores in 4 states.. well after this garbage Im out.. I am never going back there again.. Dick Smith and EB ?? how can they pull this kind of garbage? it should be illegal.. I am next going to contact the ACCC and have them do nothing about it and suffer loudly

    Last edited 27/11/13 6:20 pm

      That's horrible and it's a sad thing that stores have resorted to underhanded tactics like this which leaves customers feeling manipulated and ripped off.

      It's like the relationship between retail store and consumer has become so bad that the retailers have virtually given up, and (in the case of this DSE 'party' thing) decided to milk what they can get (FB likes, photo ops) while simultaneously annoying potential customers.

      "You want a PS4? Really, really bad, huh? Well, dance for it. Dance!! Ahahahhahaha!"

      "OK, stop, I'm bored now. What? PS4? Oh... we sold out. Come back next year in August. At midnight. And you must be dressed like a Pokemon."

      Quote from EB "The very first date that you placed a deposit on the PS4 was on the 30/8/2013 which unfortunately falls outside the cut-off date to be eligible for a second shipment PS4 console." really?? man well I got a game code from them though.. but Id far rather have bought it and get my console when I was told I was going to.. Aint going back after this.

    Meh, I've had my ps4 for a week already so it doesn't matter to me. That being said holding stock for launch day is a tradition, putting it up for ransom through a gated competition on the other hand is BS.

    Also - upvote for the use of the word "lorry".

    Is it 300 or 297?

    Why did the number change during the course of the article?

    "It’s exploitation of consumer demand, plain and simple"


    Bye Bye Playstation. Hello Xbone, and FUCK YOU Sony !

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