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30 years after Nintendo’s “Operation Midnight Shipping” and console launches are still fraught with danger



Super famicom© Nintendo Life

There is a famous story about the launch of the Super Famicom in Japan – an event that took place a staggering 30 years ago today – that Nintendo decided to send the console to stores during the night to avoid deliveries being intercepted by Yakuza war band.

Called “Operation Midnight Shipping,” the plan was devised by Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi and his right-hand man Hiroshi Imanishi, after the former got wind that Yakuza planned to steal shipments of Super Famicom before reaching stores. Given the intense hype surrounding the release of the console ̵

1; the successor to Famicom, then Japan’s most popular console by a certain margin – Yakuza rightly sensed that high profits could be achieved by selling inflated systems on the black market.

The story goes that in the early hours of November 21, 1990, 300,000 Super Famicom consoles were quietly placed in vans and distributed throughout the country before Yakuza – or most of Japan itself – was awakened from their sleep. The operation was kept secret, with only a small handful of people being made aware of when the trucks were to drive, where they were going and the cargo they contained. As a result, Yakuza ended up empty-handed, and all 300,000 launch systems came to their rightful owners.

Fast forward to today, and it looks like the PlayStation 5 launch in the UK has not been so lucky – and while Yakuza is obviously not involved this time, it seems that some shady individuals have ruined the launch of Sony’s new system for some of its customers who pre-ordered from online retail giant Amazon.

One of these customers is our very own Ant Dickens, who, like several other UK buyers who pre-ordered from Amazon, found out that their PS5 console had been replaced by a completely different item and that the packaging was sealed with transparent tape (rather than Amazon’s own packing tape). Others had been sent the wrong goods (something that often happens from time to time), while some customers had shipments marked as ‘delivered’ that never even showed up, despite the van being within sight of their home:

A buyer was lucky enough to get his PS5, but only after challenging the Amazon delivery driver who seemed to have plans to do something about the console:

Amazon has issued the following statement to our sister site, Push Square, but it seems that all it can offer disappointed customers affected by this shameful event is currently a full refund as PS5 stock has run dry :

We’re about making our customers happy, and that has not happened for a small portion of these orders. We’re really sorry and are investigating exactly what happened. We reach out to every customer who has had a problem and made us aware so we can fix it. Anyone who has had problems with an order can contact our customer service team for assistance.

The way people get their consoles has obviously changed in the three decades since Super Famicom was launched in Japan; while Nintendo was able to control how the warehouse was delivered to retail stores in 1990, online ordering in the modern era is king – even more so at the moment as we are in the midst of a global pandemic that keeps people away from physical stores.

This, of course, opens up the possibility that those accused of delivering the goods actually steal them before reaching the customer, especially when one considers that these consoles will almost certainly be sold for a massive profit in the secondary market for people who are desperate for owning a PS5 this side of Christmas.

Have you been affected by this problem? Let us know with a comment.




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