PS5: Why the video game console is still so hard to find – and tips for scoring one

When Sony launched the PlayStation 5 in November 2020, supplies quickly ran out, while gamers battling robots to pick up limited inventory. A year later, branding one of the video game consoles remains a daunting task, frustrating for consumers.

“It’s the killer story. Your kids want it, and you want to make your kids happy and it’s exciting to say you have one,” said Michael Kan, a PCMag reporter who has console shortage tracking. “It’s going to be extremely difficult, especially now – that’s really how determined you are.”

The PS5 is not cheap: the the digital edition sells for $400while the Blue-ray console will cost you $500. And that’s if you manage to find one at retail price. On eBay and other sites, resellers are mark consoles at $700 or more.

So why is the PS5 still difficult to find a year after its commercial release?

It comes down to supply chain issues, bots and the methods retailers use to sell the console, experts say. Admittedly, it’s not just the PS5 that’s missing this year. Experts note that other gaming devices, such as the Nintendo Switch OLED edition and popular graphics cards, can also be difficult to find.


Tips for your last-minute holiday shopping and shipping

06:48

Supply chain issues have weighed on PS5 production, with Sony cutting the number of units it plans to manufacture before March to 15 million from its previous target of 16 million, Bloomberg News reported. The company pointed to logistical issues and parts shortages as COVID-19 hits regions where chips and other essential products are made.

Faster robots

Then there are the robots. These software are created to buy in-demand products as soon as they go on sale. Because they are automated, the programs can perform online transactions much faster than any human. And the robots have gotten faster and better since last year, Kan said.

“A year ago it was so much easier to buy these products – you would have at least a minute” before the bots kicked in, he said. “But now, even if you keep going for the first second of a restock, you’re still not guaranteed to get a console. No one expected things to get this bad.”

Scoring a console is still possible, but it will take some effort. For Steve Butterfield, a public policy expert in Augusta, Maine, who bought three PS5s this year (including two for friends), the search was both frustrating and “pretty fun, in its own way.”

Butterfield said its four-month wait for a new dishwasher – yet another product that has been hit by the chip shortage – was actually worse than waiting for a PS5. “It took longer to get a dishwasher than to get a PS5,” he noted.

Below are tips on how to brand a console.

Follow PS5 restock trackers on Twitter

Check social media for when the PS5 is back in stock at merchants like Best Buy, Costco, and Walmart. Butterfield said he owed his three PS5 purchases to tweets about the latest restocks from Matt Swiderfounder of TheShortCut.com, which Butterfield follows on Twitter.

Butterfield set up an alert to let him know whenever Swider tweeted, meaning he was instantly notified of restocks and could jump on an available purchase. In the end, Butterfield bought a PS5 from Walmart, a second from Target, and a third directly from Sony.

“Retailers are always restocking these products, and you want to know when they restock it – it could be today, tomorrow, or this minute,” PCMag’s Kan said. “You may find some users who only specialize in tracking restocks, so you follow those users and set up alerts on your Twitter account.”

Swider did not return a request for comment. Other accounts that tweet about restocks include @CameronRitz and @lordofrestocks.

Join Retailer Membership Programs

Another way to buy a PS5 has become more difficult compared to last year: some retailers limit access to popular items to customers who belong to their membership programs.

“We’ve noticed that these retailers will only sell their consoles to people who are signed up for their membership programs,” Kan said. “You must be at Walmart+ or Best Buy Totaltech” to purchase the devices.

This advice may not appeal to some consumers, but others may be willing to shell out for memberships. Walmart+ costs $98 per year, although it offers a 15-day trial. Best Buy Totaltech is more expensive at around $200 per year.

Discover Hotstock.io

Hotstock.io may not be a household name yet, but the site is gaining fans for its real-time product tracking capabilities. While not specifically tailored to PS5s, Hotstock.io lists the console as one of its most popular items.

Hotstock tracks inventory for dozens of retailers, from Amazon.com to Walmart. Using its app, consumers can set up alerts for specific products to be notified when an item is restocked at a particular store.

One thing to know: Hotstock.io first sends alerts to premium subscribers, who pay $5.99 for the service. So if you’re using the free service, you’ll be alerted a bit later, which could be a problem when seconds count.

Try, try again

Patience and perseverance are key, experts say. Kan said he tried to buy a PS5 earlier this year and finally landed one after about three weeks of trying. (He ultimately decided against buying it because he has a PS4 and didn’t feel the need to get the new device.)

“It’s like playing the lottery at this point,” he added. “If you’re really determined, you can get it. It might take a few weeks or a few months.”