Grey stage set for UK PS2 price war

Unofficial discounting force Sony's hand?


A significant unofficial drop in PlayStation 2 hardware and software prices has kicked off in the UK fuelled by the Caldwell Group-backed distributor 20:20, which is causing consternation within Sony after it recently began offering "grey" PS2 imports to retailers, along with the option of several software bundles.

20:20 bullishly entered the games market late last year, owned by the Caudwell Group, the same independently-owned company behind the Phones4U mobile phone retail chain. It recently began importing PS2 consoles from within Europe, replacing the leads with "genuine" UK-compatible ones and selling the systems to small retailers for £99 ex VAT.

That significantly undercuts the official trade price offered by Sony's main distributor, Centresoft. The deal looks even more attractive as 20:20 is also offering to bundle up to five games with each console at a price of only £10 each - meaning that the trade price for the console and five games comes to only £150.

The games offered to retailers in the deal are The Getaway, GT3, Hitman 2, Star Wars: Starfighter, Starsky & Hutch and Space Invaders, and 20:20 is also offering a range of other recent software (including many of EA's Christmas releases, Sonic Heroes and Mafia, to name but a few) at less than the official trade price offered through the UK distribution channel.

Sony has reacted quickly to the threat of seeing its official channel being undercut, and has sent a letter to retailers this week warning them that grey imported PS2 consoles have been "modified and repackaged without Sony's notification, authorisation or approval."

According to Sony's lawyers, the repackaged European models feature third-party leads which the company cannot vouch for the safety of, and the firm has "little doubt that the retail sale of these modified products will mislead consumers into thinking they are buying approved Sony products."

Distributor 20:20 responded to Sony's letter with a letter of its own, which was published in the UK games retail newsletter MCV this week. "20:20 believes it has not acted unlawfully and it is common practise to sell products internationally," it stated. "20:20 will continue to do this as long as there is a price advantage that it can pass on to our customers without compromising safety, quality and legal practice."

The whole affair will be familiar to industry watchers who can cast their minds back five years to 1999 - when major supermarket retailer Tesco did exactly the same thing with PlayStation stocks, importing them from Europe and selling them at a discount of up to £15.

At the time, Sony acted quickly to prevent a price war from kicking off; however, with the continuing deregulation of European markets, this may not be an option now. While the prospect of a price war on PS2 goods will delight consumers, such retailer bunfights are traditionally very damaging for the industry as a whole. Could Sony perhaps nip this one at the bud with an official price cut for the PS2?

Copyright © 2004, p>

Related stories

Sony talks up PS3
US Xbox price cut to $149


Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022