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Seriously Sony, just take our money. The PS5 pre-order circus is a mess

After months of slow teases and mystery, Sony opened up pre-orders for its upcoming PlayStation 5 console on Friday. The problem is that people don’t know exactly what they’re paying for — or how much.

Here’s what we do know about pre-ordering: You would (potentially) get a PS5 (the base or digital-only model), two DualSense wireless controllers, two DualSense charging stations, two Pulse 3D wireless headsets, two media remotes, and, somewhat strangely, two HD cameras. But the list of unknowns is much longer. 

Will you get a PS5 if you pre-order?

Maybe!

Sony specified that it has only a limited number of consoles available for pre-order, so not everyone will be so lucky. This isn’t unheard of for pre-orders. Many retailers will oversell because they don’t know the exact amount of inventory they’ll get. What Sony’s doing here is unique, however, because you’re buying directly from the company. That’s not a bad thing, but keeping sign-ups open long after supplies are claimed is a bad thing. And though there’s a one-console limit, that limit is only connected to your PSN. So unless you live alone, there’s technically nothing stopping more than one person per household from signing up and getting a pre-order spot. Sony also hasn’t given a clue as to how many units will be available.

The website does say that a “sold-out” message means all PS5 units have been claimed, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be claimed before that message appears either.

The mystery figure isn’t surprising, but it keeps people’s hopes up. That directly ties into who gets a console.

Who gets one and who doesn’t?

Who knows! Well, Sony knows, but it’s offering two conflicting statements on its pre-order page.

There’s the objective answer: PS5 console pre-order reservations will be first come, first serve. And then there’s the catch: Our selection is based on previous interests and PlayStation activities.

See, you’re not really pre-ordering the console. You’re asking Sony for the privilege to pre-order the console — if the powers that be deem your fandom sufficient. So you could be the first person to sign up and still not get that pre-order spot, at least according to Sony’s own website.

I can’t say Sony is being secretive about this. It says very clearly that this is a “pre-order invitation.” But that doesn’t make it right.

What kind of “interests and PlayStation activities” merit an invitation? Is it based on direct downloads from Sony’s store? Being a PlayStation Plus or PlayStation Now member? A completionist with tons of trophies? Sharing screenshots and chatting often? That’s the kind of stuff Sony will get to look at when you submit your humble request for a pre-order invitation and your PlayStation ID. No, really. That’s all it asks for. That all it needs to know.

Oh, and if you don’t get selected, they just won’t tell you. You’ll only get an email if you are picked, which you will get before pre-orders start. About that …

When can you pre-order a PS5?

Maybe mid-September?

Sony hasn’t said when pre-orders will open, or when the console will actually go on sale. Sony and Microsoft, which is preparing to release its competing Xbox Series X console around the same time, gave a “holiday 2020” launch window. There have been rumors on both sides regarding specifics, but nothing concrete yet.

Right now, some sources are speculating that presales will open in mid-September, and units will ship in early November.

How much will the PS5 pre-order cost?

That’s the $600 question. Maybe $400, but also maybe $600. It’s also unclear how the PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition will vary in price. Since both are available through the pre-order, that adds more uncertainty to how much you might drop. It’s also unclear whether the accessories are included as a bundle, or if you’ll have to spend more.

Still, considering how much Sony is throwing in, expect a price bump. The doubles of things like a media remote and HD camera could also drive up the price, even though you can only get one console. Theoretically, you can use the remote with another compatible TV in your home, except you probably already have a remote for that. The HD camera seems to rely on a connection to the console, so the need for two is even more questionable.

What should Sony have done?

Just tell people what the deal is.

As is the case when discussing any console, some fans will be quick to defend the PlayStation maker. But Sony holds the cards here. It opted to open up a “pre-order invitation” request drumming up interest without actually doing anything or providing more information.

Tell people when they can expect to pre-order, when and how they can expect an answer, and how much they would have to spend. 

The same fans ready to justify Sony’s decision are the same ones Sony should be valuing. Valuing your fans doesn’t mean asking them to sign up to possibly get one of two versions of a console, which will arrive at an unknown date for an unknown price. This isn’t good for gamers. It’s good for Sony.

When so many people are working from home or simply out of work, the fact that everyone is gaming is a given. It’s unsurprising that players seem parched for even a hint of what’s to come in the next console generation, more so than usual. And Sony played on people’s fear with a single phrase: “Limited quantity.”

No one wants to be left behind, and COVID-19 has led to more than a few hiccups in the gaming industry. Production and material issues could mean fewer consoles. Neither Sony nor Microsoft has said they expect any problems. In fact, Sony upped its PlayStation 5 production. But consoles sell out during the holiday launch seasons in average years, and 2020 is clearly not an average year.

Why should you pre-order a PS5 from Sony?

You probably shouldn’t.

Yes, technically, you’re only signing up to get an “invitation,” meaning you could get selected and not pre-order in the end, depending on the price or other details. Still, this is bad practice. Pre-ordering from the console maker should solve the uncertainty of third-party retailers, like if they’ll have enough stock for you. This gives players absolutely nothing, and only lines Sony’s pockets by avoiding giving retailers a cut.

The direct sales model isn’t a problem, but doing it this way is.

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Lisa Marie Segarra
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Lisa Marie Segarra is the Gaming Section at Digital Trends. She's previously covered tech and gaming at Fortune Magazine and…
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