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Sony has wound up the games retail industry by announcing that the long-awaited PlayStation 2 consoles will only be sold through pre-ordering arrangements.

Those wanting to get hold of the new console will, from 14 August, have to either fill in an order form at high street retailer or an online form presumably on Sony's website. The ordering system will be run by a third party and retailers will be allowed to set their own deposit fees, although a figure of £25 has been touted as the most likely figure.

What's the fuss, you're thinking. When Dreamcast came out loads of people pre-ordered to avoid disappointment. That's true but then they were arrangements between the retailer and the customer. With this system, Sony wants access to all of that customer data. The fact that it is also setting up an enormous new e-commerce site at the moment is purely coincidental.

"There is no way retailers are going to give Sony the names and addresses of their customers," industry pundit and publisher of the Game Guide price directory Chris Ratcliffe told The Reg. "The whole industry is jumping." But Sony says it just wants to provide a level playing field. "That's a load of crap. Sony has just pushed its toes into the water to see the reaction."

So can we expect to see a PlayStation showdown? "No, we've already found several loopholes in the system. It won't work and will just collapse," said Ratcliff.

Sony is on a bit of a tightrope here. While there is certain to be massive demand for the PlayStation 2, early reviews of the console have not been over complimentary. If they had been, Sony could have bullied its way to a customer database but without that, it is certain to find big retailers rebelling.

If it's not careful, it could even push companies into giving the Dreamcast and Nintendo 64 another push. Well, until all the decent PS2 games start coming out.

So is PlayStation as good as we'd like it to be? Not according to Simon Monk, who, writing in The Times earlier this month accused its graphics of looking blocky and jagged. Why? Because the machine's 4Mb graphics memory isn't big enough (and is half that of Dreamcast). It wasn't long ago that people were talking of Sony having taken over the console market - PlayStation 2 would be the final nail. Now things don't look anywhere near as certain. ®

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