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

graphical user interface, text, application: The checkout screen on Walmart's web store when it crashed on Thursday afternoon. Walmart

© Walmart
The checkout screen on Walmart’s web store when it crashed on Thursday afternoon. Walmart

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


Load Error

Because of the 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 preordered the console months ago through one of several retailers.

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

The flood of customers at noon was so voluminous that it caused the entire Walmart web store to crash. A technical error message simply said “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:

graphical user interface, website: Walmart

© Walmart

At 3 p.m. ET, Walmart’s web listing for the PlayStation 5 was again nearly inoperable, and we ran into numerous technical issues including outright crashing.

And Walmart isn’t the only major retailer facing issues from 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 consoles for sale as Wednesday turned into Thursday. 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,” one customer wrote. “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 in September, when Sony and Microsoft first allowed customers to preorder their respective next-gen game consoles.

It’s unclear how much of a resupply Walmart issued for its first two drops, but 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 said it would resupply PS5 consoles online on a rolling basis at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. ET, and GameStop said it would 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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