With a worldwide launch, North America is not the only continent facing a shortage. An article from the Times Online (UK) is reporting that people who haven't pre-ordered their Xbox 360s shouldn't expect to to get their hands on the console until next year. The Times also states that Microsoft, "is already saying that it is short of key components, and supplies are likely to remain short until the second half of next year."
While a console shortage at launch is, by no means, something new, there is a buzz around the internet suggesting the shortage is a PR move by Microsoft. Gizmodo is calling Microsoft a "retail bully" after its Norwegian correspondent reported Microsoft's demands to Scandinavian retailers. According to the correspondent, if retailers want to sell Xbox 360s on launch day, they must sign a contract stating they'll only sell 20 systems that day (14 premium and 6 core systems) before they are "sold out". The suggestion is that a "sold out" item is a "must have" item, which will force media buzz. ArsTechnica and Gamestop have similar theories.
Most gamers don't care whether the shortage is a PR conspiracy or a legitimate limit on the key component supply. All they know is, if they haven't pre-ordered yet, it's going to be hard and/or expensive to obtain an Xbox 360 in 2005. However, all is not lost, as many large retailers (think Best Buy, Circuit City, Target, etc.) don't take pre-orders, or hold some pre-orders back so those who walk into the store on launch day have a shot. Of course, to get such a shot you'll have to walk in quite early, as Kotaku's unnamed Target mole reports:
Every store will print up tickets representing the number of 360s and core systems they have in stock. They are also supposed to print a large sign informing customers that the store has sold out and keep it on hand.
Starting at 6:00 a.m., team members (employees) are supposed to go out and hand out tickets to people in line on a first come first serve basis. If all the tickets are not handed out on the first trip, they will go out every 15 minutes until there are no more left.
Gamers will have to call their local retailers to figure out their best strategy. Again, think of stores that don't take pre-orders. Even better, think of stores most people wouldn't think of. At Lunabean we've never missed out on a hot item because of a certain grocery superstore chain that few think of as an electronics or video game retailer.
If you're not willing to wait in line and money's not an issue for you, look to eBay, where sellers are already taking pre-orders of their own, ranging from $500 - $600 a pop. It seems spendy, but I'd expect those prices to go up as soon as the shortage becomes a reality. After all, if there are people out there who are willing to spend $2000 on Gamestop's Xbox 360 Omega Bundle, there are parents out there who will happily pay $700 to get little Johnny whatever he wants for Christmas.