Sony have been criticised by the Advertising Standards (ASA) authority for their handling of the sale of limited edition 20th Anniversary PlayStation 4 consoles. The ASA ruled that the competition caused "unnecessary disappointment".
In December 2014 a very limited number of the consoles – which bore the colour scheme of the original PlayStation - were made available for sale, but who would be able to get one was decided by a convoluted and extensive process over the course of a week.
That process saw players having to follow specific Twitter accounts, study an image containing hundreds of PlayStation characters and decipher clues relating to a specific character.
Then by clicking that character they are taken part of retailer GAME's website, at which point they had to fill in a form and hope to be one of the first 100 to do so – at which point they would get instructions on how to buy one of the consoles.
Like we said, convoluted.
Most of Sony's stock (80% in fact) was sold this way, with the other 20% sold at a pop up shop in London the week prior to this competition. Those amounted to just shy of 200 devices and were sold at the special price of £19.94.
Problems arose when annoyed fans exploited the system and published a go-around, one which GAME tried to combat by time-stamping entries (so they coincided with the clues being sent out and not before). Sony too tried to heighten security to stop this from happening. GAME admit this was hard to implement fully due to the high volume of traffic affecting their site due to the event.
Further confusion was added when GAME randomly selected five of the 100 successful applicants to win a console rather than buy one.
In their findings the ASA said: "Neither Sony nor GAME could tell whether consumers had accessed the link after having solved the clue, or having been sent the link. We considered that meant entrants who had attempted to enter by solving the clue were likely to have been disadvantaged and therefore unnecessarily disappointed".
"Because, for the reasons given, the promotion had caused unnecessary disappointment, we concluded that it had not been administered fairly, and therefore that it had breached the Code. We told Sony Computer Entertainment UK Ltd and GAME Retail Ltd to ensure that future promotions were administered fairly and avoided causing unnecessary disappointment to participants."