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PlayStation 3 even scarcer than predicted

Sony console may be even harder to find, much to the delight of eBay auctioneers.

Game Over is a regular column by Chris Morris

NEW YORK ( -- Gamers knew getting their hands on a PlayStation 3 was going to be hard last weekend, but they probably had no idea it would be this hard.

Sony had said going into the game console's launch it would ship 400,000 units to North America. But retail checks by analysts show the actual number of PS3s on store shelves was less than half of that.

The PlayStation 3 has sold for $1,500 and up on eBay.
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American Technology Research's P.J. McNealy, in a note to investors, said there were just 125,000 to 175,000 PS3s in stores for the system's launch. That's roughly half of his initial expectations. Colin Sebastian of Lazard Capital Markets estimated the number at around 150,000.

While Sony (Charts) is airlifting PlayStation 3 video game systems to the U.S. on a weekly basis, analysts remain unsure how many it will be able to get on shelves before the end of the year. Sebastian believes only 750,000 will be sold in the U.S. this year. McNealy, who had previously forecast a worldwide shipment number of 2 million units, wrote in a note to investors he is now reviewing those estimates.

Sony, for its part, said in a statement it was pleased with the launch and was now "focused on getting as many new PS3s to the North American market as possible for the holidays." The company added "a new shipment has already arrived and will be available at retail by Black Friday."

Sony's shipping woes are good news for Nintendo. There were between 425,000 and 475,000 Wiis available at launch, wrote McNealy - and Sebastian believes Nintendo will ship 150,000 to 200,000 Wii units per week to North America between now and the end of the year.

Don't misunderstand, it'll still be hard to find one - but a lot easier than it is to find a PS3.

PlayStation 3 can't hide its flaws

Nintendo Wii: Funny name, fun system

Microsoft (Charts), meanwhile, continues to enjoy its one year headstart over its competitors. Xbox 360s are plentiful in stores and the release of "Gears of War" (the system's flagship game this year) has driven consumers to search for them.

The real winners, though, are the video game profiteers who are hawking their systems on eBay. Sebastian estimates roughly 20,000 PS3s have been sold since pre-orders for the system began last month. The average purchase price so far, he wrote, is approximately $1,500.

If it's any consolation, current prices seem to be falling a bit. A spot check of auctions shows most ending in the $800 (for a 20 GB PS3) to $1,100 (for the 60 GB model) range. Auctions bundling the system with one or two games tend to do better.

The buying frenzy is playing right into scammer hands, though.

One auction, which closed Monday, resulted in a buyer paying $1,100 for "contact information for my friend who acquired a PS3". The price did not include a PS3. And before you argue this was just an example of someone running up the price, it's worth noting that both buyer and seller have feedback scores of over 200 and 100 respectively.

Even Nintendo hasn't been immune from the auction mania. Wii units are only selling at a slight premium, due to their wider availability. (The average price is hovering in the $350 range - a $100 bump over retail prices.) But component cables, which boost the visual quality of the Wii, are sold out in stores. That's feeding the fire on eBay.

The cables, which retail for just $30, are selling for as much as $162 on eBay. And since they're not expected to be back in stock until mid-December, those prices could go even higher.

Morris is Director of Content Development for CNNMoney. Send him an email at Top of page

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