Sony made the PlayStation 5 launch online-only, but that didn't keep Target and Walmart from descending into internet chaos

  • The PlayStation 5 launched on Thursday, November 12, but it isn't being sold in stores.
  • The only way to get a PlayStation 5 at launch was through a pre-order, but some retailers are selling PS5s digitally on a first come, first serve basis. Both Walmart and Target have been walloped by customer demand.
  • The first drop of PlayStation 5 consoles on Walmart's website came at 12 p.m. ET, and it promptly took down the entire Walmart webstore.
  • On Twitter, Target's customer service account has spent all day fending off angry customers who have been unable to buy the new console.
  • Despite Sony's best intentions with moving PS5 launch day sales online, the situation is as chaotic as ever.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

After months of anticipation, Sony's new PlayStation 5 launched on Thursday. 

Due to the ongoing global pandemic, Sony decided not to go the traditional console launch route and isn't selling the new game console in retail stores at launch. Instead of massive launch lines, and stories of excited fans camping out overnight in front of GameStop, the main way to get a PS5 on November 12 is to have pre-ordered the console months ago through one of several different retailers. 

Beyond that, potential PlayStation 5 buyers have one recourse on launch day: The digital storefronts of major retailers like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy. And starting at 12 p.m. ET on November 12, people got a look at how well that system worked.

The flood of customers at 12 p.m. ET was so voluminous that it caused the entire Walmart web store to crash. A technical error message said simply, "no healthy upstream." It was later replaced by a more user-friendly page explaining that the store was overloaded by too many shoppers at one time:

Again at 3 p.m. ET, Walmart's web store listing for the PlayStation 5 was nearly inoperable, and we ran into numerous technical issues including outright crashing.

And Walmart isn't the only major retailer facing issues due to extreme consumer demand for the PlayStation 5: One look at Target's customer help line on Twitter is enough to confirm that the chaos is widespread. 

Along with several other retailers, Target released a batch of PlayStation 5 inventory for sale as Wednesday turned into Thursday, November 12. Many of those customers faced the same issue that people did on Thursday with Walmart.

"It said my PS5 was in the cart, then I checked out and it said it would be available for pick up in 4 hours, but then it said it didn't go through and I'm not getting any emails for it," wrote one customer. "What should I do?"

"I know the demand is high for the #PS5 launch," another customer wrote, "but your payment process needs to change. Never had issues with a payment process like that to not get a console." 

Similar issues happened back in September, when Sony and Microsoft first allowed customers to pre-order their respective next-gen game consoles.

It's unclear how much of a re-supply Walmart issued for its first two drops, but it's clear that there weren't enough for everyone who wanted to buy one: Despite our best attempts, Walmart sold out of consoles in less than five minutes at both 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. ET.

Walmart says it will resupply PS5 consoles online on a rolling basis at 6 p.m. ET, and 9 p.m. ET, and GameStop says it will have consoles available for sale in store on Black Friday, November 27.

Got a tip? Contact Business Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email ([email protected]), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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