Consider yourself in miserable company if you’ve been searching everywhere to find a Sony Playstation 5 or a Microsoft Xbox Series X that’s been in stock for more than a couple of hours, to no avail. The struggle has been real ever since both consoles released in November of last year. And it’s been exacerbated by the need for stay-at-home entertainment due to the fallout from the pandemic. The anticipation for both consoles, especially the PS5, was almost insurmountable. Consumers have been scouring the internet and retail stores to figure out where to buy PS5 or Xbox Series X consoles, and even if they find them the prices are stratospheric.
Sony delayed the scheduled June 4, 2020 release date of their latest console because they felt it wasn’t time to celebrate in the midst of the pandemic. Understandably so. Just before the 2020 holiday shopping season kicked off, Sony and Microsft released their consoles. Sony sold 4.5 million of them before the end of last year, and Microsoft sold about half that. The PS5 is outselling the Xbox Series X by a factor of 2-to-1, but neither one is hurting in terms of sales volumes. It’s the millions of consumers who have to wait in the wings for their ship/console to come in. Whatever gets made gets sold, and the rest of us are left high and dry. There are myriad factors as to why it’s been so excruciating for would-be buyers to get their hands on these two gaming consoles, and it’s not just because of their rampant popularity. Even months after it all began, it remains a challenge to buy one. Trust us, we’ve tried. Let’s take a closer look as to what’s causing the sparse stock, as well as where you should look to find one.
COVID-19 and the Global Microchip Shortage
If you want to trace it all back to the first domino that started the fall, it’s most definitely COVID-19. When factories across industries shut down due to the virus, many microchip (aka, semiconductor) manufacturers in China also temporarily halted production. Numerous industries, including automobiles, appliances, computers, smart home tech, and yes, gaming consoles, use the tiny but might microchip (aka, semiconductor). The ongoing shortage has certainly affected the production of both the PS5 and the Xbox, and the cause of the shortage is multi-faceted. First of all, the number of microchip manufacturers that supply the international market was small, to begin with, and that number shrank during the pandemic. The sheer volume of products in the current digital age that require microchips is simply staggering, as well. Some chipmakers like AMD, even outsourced the manufacturing of their chips because it was cheaper. The end result was a diminished supply of chips available for the international market, and that meant Sony and Microsoft had to get in line with everybody else across industries. It’s not as if they had a back stockroom packed with millions of chips at the ready.
Supply Chain Woes
To make matters worse, there were bottlenecks in the supply chain that hindered suppliers and manufacturers. Ports all over the world closed or drastically decreased flow due to COVID-19, and even available products and supplies were delayed by weeks or months. Available shipping containers were also scant, so any products that were ready for shipping from ports that were up and running struggled to get out. The logistics problem continued in places like Guangdong province, a busy exporting hub in southern China, where issues like shipping vessel delays, ongoing changes to port call schedules, and surges in COVID-19 cases slowed things to an even greater degree. Both Playstations and Xboxes are made in China, so shipping delays held up available supply.
Increased Demand, Scalpers, and High Prices
It’s said that timing is everything, and such was the case with the demand surge for electronics during the pandemic. Everybody was suddenly confined to their homes but still had to work, “go to” school, and stay semi-sane. The need for computers, tablets, smartphones, and gaming consoles skyrocketed. Coupled with the chip shortage and supply chain delays, the spike in demand for the aforementioned products meant fewer chips had to be spread around for the electronic goods. The demand outpaced supply by a significant margin. Products are backed up in the supply chain, and complete relief will take a while.
Scalpers are also part of the problem. In the midst of the insanely high demand for Playstations and Xboxes, scalpers who employ bots to scavenge whatever meager supply is left popped up on the web. These bots operate by scanning retail websites and providing timely notification of a sale before they actually open up to the general public. The sophisticated bots provide scalpers with the website, price, number of consoles in stock, and they’ll even leapfrog straight to checkout to expedite the buying process. Before you know it, the available cache of console stock is gone like a flash in the pan. But it’s not just scalpers. Those looking to make an extra buck might buy an extra console to sell on sites like eBay or StockX. The draw to reselling is significant since some consoles were selling for upwards of $1,800 on eBay, more than 3.5 times the retail cost of both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X.
So Where Can I Actually Find a PS5 or Xbox Series X?
The global chip shortage is a big concern, not just for consumers but also for retailers. Semiconductor manufacturers are investing billions to expand production facilities to meet up with increased demand. In response, Sony and Microsoft are planning to ramp up console production through the summer and into the second half of 2021. Consumers could see a significantly larger supply in 2022, and enough consoles could become available to the point where they don’t have to pay a premium to own one. So, your best bet is likely holding out until late this year or sometime next year.
If you’re willing to pay $750 and up for an Xbox Series X or a PS5 Disc version (the digital version costs less but must use downloaded games versus discs), you can head to eBay or StockX and buy one today. If you must get your hands on one in the semi-near future but don’t want to pay extra, there are a handful of places you should scan daily. Amazon (Playstation) (Xbox), Walmart (Playstation) (Xbox), Best Buy (Playstation) (Xbox), Target (Playstation) (Xbox), Playstation Direct, and GameStop (Playstation) (Xbox) are still the best places to check, but keep in mind that restocks aren’t especially frequent, and they don’t last long. If you’re desperate to try to find some consoles in stock, there are a handful of sites that provide email and/or mobile alerts when these consoles do land in stores. You can sign up and get a notification once the hardware is available for purchase. But, be warned, this is a dangerous game as the consoles still go out of stock extremely quickly. So, if you don’t want to stress yourself out and you can wait until next year when the supply catches up to the demand, you’ll be sure to only pay retail.