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How the Gates-Grinch Stole Christmas

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From an article in this morning’s New York Times on the early Christmas season best selling gifts:

In fact, those looking to buy an Xbox 360 may be out of luck. It is largely unavailable now, and the few that can be had are fetching double and triple the $400 retail price from online stores and eBay.

How could that be, with four weeks left in the shopping season? Could Microsoft have so badly calculated demand as to exhaust its available supply four days into the shopping season? If so, what were they thinking? A new marketing campaign to become the Grinch, or to drive would be shoppers into the arms of Sony? And given the fierce cynicism of young consumers, doesn’t a buzz-inducing shortage seem just the sort of cue that could make Gatesland even more loathsome to the under 25 crowd?

So, what’s Microsoft saying about this? Almost nothing.

Xbox 360 has a site which asserts “Xbox 360 in stores now,” and the site has a calnendar of future game releases etc. There’s a forlorn comment or two in the Xbox forums, but Google news doesn’t have one piece I can find asking the company how such a shortage came to be. With spokesmen as farflung as Ireland being very cagey about supplies, the suspicion grows that Microsoft is managing this to create a shortage which in turn creates buzz.

Here’s MajorNelson’s take on the situation. And many posters on this thread are very unhappy game-players.

HBS must see a new case study unfolding, and if Microsoft doesn’t start the spin machine soon, look for plenty slow news season stories on the worst new product roll-out in a decade.


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