Since the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S went on sale last spring, Best Buy hasn’t sold next-gen consoles at its brick-and-mortar U.S. locations, citing safety concerns around covid-19. That changed on Wednesday, when the big box retailer said it would sell a limited supply at stores across the country today. Predictably, the whole thing has been A Lot.
For the past ten months, it’s been nearly impossible to get your hands on an Xbox Series X/S or a PS5, despite both outpacing sales records of their predecessor consoles. Typically, when stock for the Xbox Series X/S or the PS5 becomes available, it does so digitally, either via third-party retailers — Amazon, Target, and, if you pay for the premium membership, GameStop — or direct buys from Microsoft and Sony. There’s usually almost no heads up for such availability. And when listings do go live, they go away in the blink of an eye, with products scooped up by bots, scalpers, and digital shoppers who are one with the Matrix.
Best Buy bucked that trend by — and I know this might sound unbelievable, given the tactics of the past year — actually giving a heads up. As reported by IGN, Best Buy said it would offer limited supplies of next-gen consoles at 300 locations around the country: at least one store in every state, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.
The ploy resulted in people camping out overnight, in lines that stretch around stores, all in the efforts to play next-gen games like Returnal and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (or, let’s be real, a backward-compatible version of Grand Theft Auto V). Take a look at this line, recorded by popular Call of Duty YouTuber TmarTn, at a Best Buy at the MIllenia Mall in Orlando:
8:30am at the Millenia Best Buy in Orlando, store opens in 1.5 hours
At least 250 people in line wrapped all the way around the building waiting for the PS5 / Xbox Series X restock
— TmarTn (@TmarTn) September 23, 2021
Local North Carolina CBS affiliate WFMY captured a similar line at a Best Buy in Winston-Salem, North Carolina:
Whoa, check out this long line! Folks lined up overnight outside Best Buy in Winston-Salem to get their hand on a highly sought-after PS5 and Xbox Seris X.
???? What is one thing you're willing to spend the night in line for?
— WFMY News 2 (@WFMY) September 23, 2021
Not quite as frenetic as lines for the area’s famous Winston-Salem Open, of course, but still not what you’d want to see when trying to pick up a consumer product that’s not actually new and already owned by millions of people.
Here’s a photo from Bob Varettoni, comms director at the New York-based Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, showing the queues this morning at the Best Buy on Fifth Avenue:
— Bob Varettoni (@bvar) September 23, 2021
And another, snapped by Twitter user @alfarosalvador, showing dozens of folks weathering the rain:
Outside Best Buy in DC to try to get an Xbox series X. Ppl waiting for PS5 disc edition. Hope I can get it. Crazy line. pic.twitter.com/5xVCm5YMXm
— JUNKIE TRADER ???? (@alfarosalvador) September 23, 2021
Right now, social media is rife with similar accounts: photos and videos of excruciating lines, stories of success and failure.
In March, the NPD Group’s Mat Piscatella told Kotaku that, by the end of summer, the supply shortage of next-gen consoles could resemble some state of “normal” — where you’d be able to just pop into your local GameStop and pick up a console off the shelf. But he was clear to note that such a prediction was optimistic, to say the least, and was entirely contingent on “nothing else [going] wrong.”
Summer ended two days ago. A whole lot has gone wrong. The global semiconductor shortage that’s driving this scarcity is now expected to last through next year. But hey, at least a few more people were able to score a PS5 this Thursday.