High street retailer HMV has described Sony's decision to offer free Bravia televisions to the first PS3 buyers as "unnecessary", warning that it could be seen as a last-minute bid for positive PR.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz a spokesperson for the high street retailer said, "The stunt of giving away over Â£200,000 worth HDTVs, though great for the fans that managed to get one, struck me as being slightly unnecessary in the greater scheme of things - especially as it may have encouraged some of the more cynical media to think of it as a last-minute attempt to bolster queues and PR coverage."
The official UK launch event for PlayStation 3 took place at the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street last Thursday night. With just 20 minutes to go before the console went on sale, Sony UK boss Ray Maguire announced that the first 125 people in the queue would each be receiving a 46" high-definition television worth around GBP 2000.
"If Sony had that kind of money to spend I'm surprised they didn't just invest it in a truly memorable and fantastic launch event, full of theatre and special effects, like the one we saw for Nintendo Wii - which to my mind remains the benchmark for such launches," the spokesperson continued.
Sources told GamesIndustry.biz that HMV was originally lined up to host the PS3 launch event, just as it held midnight openings for the PSP and Wii. However, Virgin Megastores was eventually chosen as Sony's official retail partner.
HMV Oxford Street opted to host a special 'breakfast launch' at 7.30am on Friday, offering free copies of Virtua Tennis 3 to the first 150 customers buying a PS3 console, while other branches around the country did open at midnight.
"We've been very happy with the overall launch so far and with the response to our midnight and breakfast openings, including our Sega promotion," said the spokesperson.
"Demand for the PS3 had been building steadily over the past few weeks, but it's really taken off these last few days as the media have become more interested."
However, queues for the late night and early morning PS3 launches were much smaller than those seen for Xbox 360 and Wii - with many retailers, including HMV, attributing this to healthy stock supplies and the time of year.
"Obviously there's been relatively strong supply of the console compared to other platform launches, which enjoyed a major advantage coming out just before Christmas to become 'must have' gift items. So we're in the nice position of actually having some units for customers to buy off-the-shelf for a change rather than having to apologise for being out of stock."
According to the spokesperson, HMV is expecting to sell through its remaining PlayStation 3 stock "quite quickly, if this level of interest continues".
"Sony have a great track record in achieving huge household penetration over the course of a campaign, and there's every prospect we'll see the same for PS3," he added.
"Sales of the console can only grow - especially as more titles are released."