The 8MB memory cards plug in to the PS2 and are necessary for people to save games in progress and game settings, making them almost mandatory for lengthy games such as action titles and role-playing fantasies. According to a survey by research firm IDC, 87.5 percent of customers who purchased a PlayStation 2 also bought a memory card to go with it.
Yet the standard 8MB Sony card was listed as "unavailable" Wednesday on Sony's PlayStation.com Web site, as well as on the e-commerce sites of major retailers such as CompUSA and Best Buy. Other online retailers, such as Amazon.com and GameStop, listed the Sony cards as unavailable earlier in the week but had them in stock Wednesday. San Francisco and New York game stores contacted by CNET News.com said the memory cards were out of stock.
Sony has signed licenses with several companies to manufacture memory cards for the PlayStation 2, but third-party products are also in short supply, due to heightened demand and Sony's decision late last year not to renew licensing agreements with some companies, including memory card maker Mad Catz.
PlayStation 2 owner Jeremy Hoekstra said he went to eight Dallas-area stores last weekend looking for a memory card to go with his newly purchased PlayStation 2, to no avail. He said he bought the console mainly to enjoy the role-playing game "Final Fantasy X," so without a memory card there was little he could do with his new game machine.
"It's like getting the machine without a power cord," he said. "It makes my PS2 worthless to me for the time being."
Molly Smith, spokeswoman for Sony Computer Entertainment of America, said the memory cards are an extremely popular item, and stock can vary day by day for major retailers. "We're trying to keep up with demand," she said.
Memory cards have been a problem for Sony before. When the PlayStation 2 went on sale in Japan two years ago, initial shipments had to be delayed when Sony was unable to supply memory cards to go with the consoles.
IDC analyst Schelley Olhava said meeting demand for memory cards has been a persistent problem for Sony since the PlayStation 2 was introduced, but she didn't expect shortages to affect sales of the console.