Thinking about getting a PS5 or Xbox Series X? Unfortunately, you might have to wait a while before you can snag one. The latest consoles from Sony and Microsoft are still stupidly difficult to purchase over eight months after their release. And, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the situation will improve any time soon.
The low console supply can be blamed on the global semiconductor chip shortage, which has become a huge problem for any company that needs electronic parts for their products.
These major hiccups have caused product shortages and shipping delays as demand overwhelms supply. Even the enormous car industry can’t build enough new cars, which has created a boost in used car prices.
However, despite the delays, the demand for electronics hasn’t wavered. This is particularly true for the video game industry, where the hype for new consoles has only compounded the problem. High demand but low supply has created ugly competition, a possible network of thefts, and continued frustration over scalpers.
Happy #PS5 day everyone. Tried to document our one’s unveiling, but Amazon have tricked us with an unsolicited air fryer instead (after giving delivery password). Anyone else had this problem today? pic.twitter.com/99IUSzSJUU
— Bex April May (@bexlectric) November 19, 2020
Yep this happened to me today. No delivery driver turned up but the PS5 got marked as delivered. Very likely stolen.
— ThisGenGaming (@ThisGenGamingYT) November 19, 2020
Thanks @AmazonUK for sending me this instead of the ps5 I ordered. And then telling me sorry, we can't send you the item you actually ordered because we ran out. So you're gonna have to wait over 10 days for a refund. Absolute shambles pic.twitter.com/2slEFxKxlc
— Kirsty (@oopssimafan) November 20, 2020
Consoles have been hit by a chip shortage
There’s a number of factors contributing to the global chip shortage.
One factor is the rippling impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdowns and people switching to work-from-home setups have drastically increased the demand for new computers, monitors, and other electronic equipment. But it takes time to make these chips — sometimes months before they’re ready to be sent to a client. Manufacturers can’t keep up with the demand.
“Chips are everything,” media and tech analyst Neil Campling explained to The Guardian. “There is a perfect storm of supply and demand factors going on here. But basically, there is a new level of demand that can’t be kept up with, everyone is in crisis and it is getting worse.”
Another source of the shortage is the trade war between the United States and China. In 2018, President Trump’s administration imposed trade restrictions on imports from China, including the country’s largest chip maker. Since then, the manufacturer has been unable to make chips for U.S. companies. Many U.S. companies have switched to using manufacturers in Taiwan (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) and South Korea (Samsung), but the power of these two aren’t enough to keep up with demand.
To make matters worse, a record-breaking drought in Taiwan has thrown a wrench in one of the world’s biggest chip manufacturers. It takes a lot of water to make semiconductors, with some facilities using up to 63,000 tons of water per day, and the challenge of finding enough water to maintain production has sent government officials working overtime to provide solutions. Unfortunately, some of those solutions have come at the cost of the livelihood of local rice farmers.
When will there be more chips?
It doesn’t look like the situation will improve any time soon. Demand hasn’t gone down and the chip supply is still limited. That means the latest consoles will still be hard to find.
Even Sony’s CFO, Hiroki Totoki, doesn’t think it’ll get better by the end of the year. According to a report from Bloomberg, Totoki informed a group of analysts that the PS5 supply problem was likely to continue into 2022.
“I don’t think demand is calming down this year,” he reportedly told them, “and even if we secure a lot more devices and produce many more units of the PlayStation 5 next year, our supply wouldn’t be able to catch up with demand.”
It’s likely the same story for the Xbox Series X.
The good news is that analysts don’t expect the shortage to go beyond 2022 (though it could stretch up to 2023). Chip manufacturers are pushing to get more factories open so they can ramp up production, but the earliest those facilities can start is next year. Maybe. That’s a very big maybe.
In the meantime, the best way to nab a PS5 or Xbox Series X is still by stalking retailer pages. Keep an eye on places like Amazon, GameStop, Best Buy, Target, and Walmart for new stock. Look for users on social media who’ve turned console tracking into a hobby. Check out the PlayStation and Xbox websites for news or opportunities — like contests! — to buy a console.
But, above all, don’t feed the scalpers. Please do not pay $1000 for a console that retails for $500. It’s already tough enough to find a console. Let’s not increase competition by encouraging scalpers to keep scalping.