We’re more than a year into the ninth console generation, and it’s still largely a pain in the ass to get one. No matter where you go, whether it’s Microsoft and Sony’s official websites or any of the many retailers, both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S appear constantly sold out. Unless you’re privy to console drops ahead of time or very lucky, you’re probably still waiting to get yours. This is thanks to a myriad of factors, most notably the global chip shortage.
Per Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, the ongoing semiconductor shortage is likely to extend into 2023, which means getting your hands on a next-gen (When do we call it “current-gen?”) console is still a matter of chance and diligence. The shortage, partially caused by parts that cost as little as a dollar, has strained the supply chain, creating adverse effects on the production of everything with a computer in it. Semiconductor scarcity has also prompted a not-entirely-new market to swell in the form of scalpers, who reportedly made some $104 million in profits this past August alone, according to Micheal Driscoll, a data product senior associate lead at consumer finance company Avant.
Then, of course, there are bots and the never-ending pandemic, which add another layer of frustration.
That’s not to say it’s totally impossible to get one. In fact, I walked out of my local GameStop in New York with a PS5—on Thanksgiving Day, no less! The very next day, the gaming gods were gracious enough to bless me with an Xbox Series S. It’s doable, albeit difficult, and while things look better than last year, 2021 still proved tough to get a hold of these shiny boxes.
The landscape looked better this year, with Microsoft and Sony regularly restocking their consoles. Not that it mattered much as, the moment stock replenished, bots scooped up whatever inventory was available. So, the answer is “it depends,” particularly on your patience. We here at Kotaku have an entire guide on how to get your hands on one, which indicates how convoluted and frustrating the process still is. Really, it shouldn’t be this hard, but bots and the semiconductor shortage and news that Sony has cut console production by a full one million units will likely make things harder.
You know, it’s weird. The more powerful behemoth that is the Xbox Series X is almost always sold out. But its little sister, the Xbox Series S, is available at a variety of retailers. From Amazon to Best Buy to Target, you could theoretically walk in and out of a store with the cute white system in hand right now. The bigger shoebox-looking one? Yeah, not so much. Microsoft hasn’t announced any plans to cut console production like Sony, so finding either next-gen Xbox consoles was a little easier this year. Still, you had bots and the chip shortage to contend with here as well, so it was a challenge all the same. And Xbox head Phil Spencer expects shortages to continue into next year, which doesn’t bode well for the coming year.
Like my grandma said, “God answers those who pray the hardest.” And I prayed pretty hard for an entire year! Jokes aside, I was just patient. I’m too lazy to religiously track restocks and too unbothered to battle bots for game consoles. But seeing as my job is to keep up with the industry, I’m at least tuned in enough to know when and where either one will see inventory replenishments.
So, after spending the day with my partner walking around Manhattan for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade—it sucked, don’t ask—we chanced upon a rapidly growing line outside our local GameStop. The line, composed of roughly 20 people and counting, prompted us to stand in it, hoping we’d luck out and walk away with either a PlayStation 5 or an Xbox Series X. That GameStop got 22 PS5s, limiting them to one per party. We were 21st in the line. Had we decided to walk home instead, I wouldn’t have gotten one.
I tried to swing getting an Xbox Series X as well, but GameStop forced expensive bundles on customers, with the PS5 running my wallet over $800 in total. The Xbox Series X bundle was about the same price, so there was no way I was getting both; I don’t make that much money, and it sold out that night anyway. I went back the next day, though, with a PlayStation 4 trade-in ready. To my complete surprise, the local GameStop had a few Xbox Series S consoles in stock. So I got rid of my PlayStation 4 and walked out with an Xbox Series S, paying just $42 for a second DualSense controller so my partner can play with me—and that was it! The rest is history, enshrined in the annals of this Twitter thread.
So yeah, 2021 pretty much sucked for everyone hoping to get a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S—except for me, I guess. Patience is a virtue, as they say. Still, 2022 seems to be looking better for consumer purchases, with Democrats reintroducing a bill aimed at preventing bots from buying up everything. We’ll see how that goes, especially when there are fewer PS5s getting produced and the ongoing semiconductor shortage. To be honest, I wouldn’t hold my breath for that long.