30 Years After Nintendo’s “Operation Midnight Shipping” And Console Launches Are Still Fraught With Danger

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© Nintendo Life

There’s a famous story relating to the launch of the Super Famicom in Japan – an event which took place a staggering 30 years ago today – that Nintendo decided to ship the console to stores during the night to avoid deliveries being intercepted by Yakuza crime gangs.

Dubbed “Operation Midnight Shipping”, the plan was concocted by Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi and his right-hand man Hiroshi Imanishi after the former got wind that the Yakuza were planning to steal shipments of the Super Famicom before they reached stores. Given the intense hype surrounding the release of the console – the successor to the Famicom, then Japan’s most popular console by some margin – the Yakuza rightly sensed that high profits could be made by selling systems at inflated prices on the black market.

The story goes that in the early hours of the 21st November 1990, 300,000 Super Famicom consoles were quietly loaded into vans and distributed across the country, before the Yakuza – or the majority of Japan itself – had woken from their slumber. The operation was kept top-secret, with only a small handful of people being made aware of when the trucks would be leaving, where they’d be heading and the cargo they contained. As a result, the Yakuza ended up empty-handed and all 300,000 launch systems got to their rightful owners.

Fast forward to the present day, and it would seem that the PlayStation 5 launch in the UK hasn’t been so lucky – and while the Yakuza naturally isn’t involved this time around, it seems that some shady individuals have ruined the launch of Sony’s new system for some of its customers who pre-ordered with online retail giant Amazon.

One of those customers is our very own Ant Dickens, who, like several other UK buyers which pre-ordered with Amazon, found that their PS5 console had been replaced by a totally different item and that the packaging had been sealed up with transparent tape (rather than Amazon’s own parcel tape). Others had been sent incorrect items (something which does tend to happen from time to time) while some customers had shipments marked as ‘delivered’ that never even turned up, despite the delivery van being within sight of their home:

One buyer was lucky enough to get his PS5, but only after challenging the Amazon delivery driver, who appeared to have plans to make off with the console:

Amazon has issued the following statement to our sister site, Push Square, but it would appear that for the time being, all it can offer disappointed customers impacted by this shameful event is a full refund, as PS5 stock has run dry:

We’re all about making our customers happy, and that hasn’t happened for a small proportion of these orders. We’re really sorry about that and are investigating exactly what’s happened. We’re reaching out to every customer who’s had a problem and made us aware so we can put it right. Anyone who has had an issue with any order can contact our customer services team for help.

Obviously, the way people get their consoles has changed in the three decades since the Super Famicom launched in Japan; while Nintendo could control how the stock was delivered to retail stores in 1990, in the modern era online ordering is king – even more so at the moment, as we’re in the middle of a global pandemic which is keeping people away from physical stores.

That obviously opens up the possibility of those who are charged with delivering the goods actually stealing them before they reach the customer, especially when you consider that these consoles will almost certainly be sold for a massive profit on the secondary market to people who are desperate to own a PS5 this side of Christmas.

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




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