PlayStation 2 mania hits online auction sites

With the Saturday morning clamor for PlayStation 2 (PS2) consoles continuing into this week and warnings from maker Sony Computer Entertainment (SCEI) about short-term shortages of units due to supply problems with memory cards, lucky owners are looking to the Internet to make a quick buck.

Auction sites both in Japan and overseas are already packed with sellers offering the hot console, which was launched on Saturday and sold out almost immediately. SCEI announced late Monday it had shipped 720,000 of the units over the weekend and planned to clear back-logged online sales over the next week.

On Yahoo Japan's auction section, at http://auctions.yahoo.co.jp/, prices are generally in the range of 45,000 yen to 50,000 yen ($US418 to $465) -- a small premium on the Japanese retail price of 39,800 yen.

The auctions aren't just limited to Japan. Consumers in Europe and North America will have to wait six months to get their hands on a PlayStation 2 in North America and Europe, so the item is an even hotter property overseas.

On Ebay's US web site, at http://www.ebay.com/, several of the consoles are being offered for sale, although it's certainly a case of buyer beware. Most of the sellers apparently are in Japan, and few include pictures of the actual unit as proof of ownership.

Among the handful that do have images of the console at home, rather than copies of SCEI's publicity pictures that are being used by most sellers, all is not happy. The same image is appearing on multiple auctions, leading one of the sellers to proclaim, "There are some sellers who are copying my auction entirely ... including all my pictures. By (sic) aware these are frauds ... so they resort to stealing pictures to gain bids."

Sellers based in the US are proving the link between price and demand. Although few who visited Japan to buy the PS2 are likely to be selling it -- the combined price of the console and air ticket to Japan would be prohibitive -- some companies are offering imported units. At online retailer Jayro, the company is asking $950, although a call to the company's hotline reveals a recorded message inviting users to be put on a waiting list until more stock arrives on Thursday.

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Martyn Williams

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