Walmart's idea for creating buzz around PS5 launch comes to crashing halt twice
Walmart’s idea for building excitement around its limited inventory of Sony’s next-generation PlayStation 5 game consoles on launch day came to a quick, crashing halt—twice—as its site buckled under a crush of would-be orders.
For the sake of pandemic safety, Sony opted to avoid the in-store crush of its usual console launches in favor of online pre-orders that began months ago for in-person pickup. But Walmart decided to re-create some of the drama of traditional in-store launches by making limited inventory available during four time slots Thursday. The apparent effort to build site traffic was a little too successful, at least during the first two waves of the sale.
At noon and 3 p.m. EST, many people trying to place orders were greeted with various error messages. Walmart.com put up an “Oh deer” page with a photo of a dog wearing reindeer antlers, asking people to try coming back to complete their orders. When they did, many who thought they’d added $499 PS5 consoles to their carts were displeased to find the consoles weren’t there or were listed as “out of stock.” Many turned to Twitter or other social forums to complain.
Walmart had two more slots scheduled for 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. eastern on Thursday for people to try again.
The PS5 traffic didn’t crash other parts of Walmart.com. And if it’s any consolation, Chewy.com was also down around 8 a.m. EST on Thursday, with no PS5-related traffic to blame. Then again, maybe Walmart had to place a lot of quick orders for dog reindeer antlers on Chewy in anticipation of shoots for more 404 Error pages. As Amazon showed two years ago when its site crashed on Prime Day, cute dogs are an essential part of the solution to promotionally driven glitches.
"The PS5 is one of this year's hottest holiday gifts," a Walmart spokeswoman said in an email. "When we released the item for sale on Walmart.com, we did see massive traffic, which caused some customers to experience intermittent slowness for a few minutes. We quickly caught up with the volume and are currently restocking the item for additional release of inventory throughout the day."