Trying To Buy A Next-Gen Console Is Still A Nightmare

Trying To Buy A Next-Gen Console Is Still A Nightmare

The PS5 and Xbox Series X/S are in high demand but short supply. That’s not completely surprising given the challenges of launching next-gen consoles in the middle of a pandemic. But trying to get a hold of one continues to be a bigger headache than it otherwise might be due to scalpers, scammers, and the confusing ways stores are trickling out their remaining stock.

Maybe, after skimming the reviews and seeing the video game release schedule pick up, you’ve decided you’d like to get your hands on a next-gen console after all. Or maybe, like me, you were bombarded on Black Friday by friends and family asking where they can pick one up. But if you go to Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, or any other major gaming retailer’s website, you’re greeted by the greyed-out words “sold out.” On Microsoft and Sony’s websites you won’t even find that, just general information pages touting the new hardware with no easy way to sign up to get notified of when the consoles might be available to buy again.

This is the way it’s been for months now, going back to the original PS5 and Xbox Series X/S pre-order debacles from September. Neither Microsoft nor Sony has said exactly how many total consoles they plan to make available to retailers this holiday season, or how many have already been sold.

Last week, Sony called the PS5 its biggest console launch ever. Considering 2.1 million PS4s were sold in that console’s first two weeks, we know that the PS5 has at least sold more than that. According to Famitsu, 118,085 PS5s were sold in Japan the first four days after launch, compared to 309,154 PS4s in that console’s first week. Meanwhile, Xbox Series X and S sold 20,534 units in Japan in their first five days, compared to 23,562 Xbox Ones in that console’s first four days.

Screenshot: Microsoft
Screenshot: Microsoft

While this doesn’t shed much light on the overall supply of next-gen consoles worldwide compared to last time, manufacturers keep stressing that more are on the way. “Demand for PS5 is unprecedented, so we wanted to confirm that more PS5 inventory will be coming to retailers before the end of the year,” Sony tweeted last week. “Please stay in touch with your local retailers.”

Microsoft has a similar message. “We have seen overwhelming global demand from our fans for the next generation of Xbox and are working tirelessly with our retail partners to replenish Xbox hardware as quickly as possible — in some instances, that will be on a weekly basis depending on the retailer and market,” a spokesperson for the company told Kotaku in an email. “Please check in with your local retailers directly for more details on availability in your market.”

The emphasis on constantly checking in with retailers, whose own processes for selling next-gen consoles seem opaque and haphazard, is part of the frustration. People undeterred by constantly finding these consoles out of stock have had to settle for navigating an online labyrinth of updates on Twitter and elsewhere announcing when this or that retailer has decided to sell off some more of their inventory. This has occasionally worked out for a lucky few, but many others have raced virtually from Target to Sam’s Club to ever more obscure stores without anything to show for it.

Bots on Twitch will let watch a stream for hours waiting for new PS5 and Xbox Series X/S stock to pop up.  (Gif: Killercam1020, Fair Use)
Bots on Twitch will let watch a stream for hours waiting for new PS5 and Xbox Series X/S stock to pop up. (Gif: Killercam1020, Fair Use)

A perfect example of this played out earlier today when game deals impresario Wario64, who has been the go-to account for keeping track of next-gen console availability, shared the news that the New York City camera shop Adorama would have some PS5s for sale starting at 11:00 a.m. ET. “Limited stock, bundles only,” Adorama tweeted this morning. Once 11:00 a.m. finally rolled around, the first thing Adorama did was immediately send out a second tweet announcing that its “initial batch” was already sold out, but that it would continue to update followers on any new stock that became available.

The tweet was quickly ratio’d by people who felt like they’d been sent on a wild goose chase and accused Adorama of preying on their desperation for a publicity stunt. “We wanted to let our community know we would have them — that was our only goal,” the store tweeted in response to one commenter.

All of this has been made worse by the abundance of scalpers and next-gen resellers this launch cycle. The reseller company CrepChiefNotify boasted to Business Insider last week that it had helped its subscribers secure approximately 3,500 PS5s. This week it boasted of helping customers do the same for over 1,000 Xbox Series Xs. Search a place like Ebay and you’ll quickly find hundreds of listings for next-gen consoles, many with price tags over $US1,000 ($1,357), more than twice what the standard PS5 and Series X retail for.

Screenshot: Ebay
Screenshot: Ebay

It’s hard to tell how many of those listings are legitimate. As Eurogamer reported earlier today, online marketplaces like Ebay have been flooded with bogus listings for next-gen consoles. One scam includes attempting to sell pictures of the PS5 rather than the console itself, a practice Ebay says it’s trying to crack down on. “We condemn these opportunistic sellers who are attempting to mislead other users,” Ebay told Eurogamer. “We are in the process of removing all listings for photos of PS5s from our marketplace and will be taking appropriate action against the sellers.”

Surely there has to be a better way. “I do think it’s going to push us to think about new models,” head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, told The Verge about people trying to order consoles online. “It could be, reserve your slot. It could be doing things more direct with the customer. Still could have the retailer fulfil the order, but just so people can have more clarity on when they can get a console. It’s something we’re working on.”

In the meantime, you can always head over to Twitch to commiserate with others desperate to pick up a next-gen console. There’s a bot that ticks through all the stores that currently don’t have any PS5s or Xbox Series X/Ss to sell.

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