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Why It’s So Damn Hard to Find a PS5

The console shortage is real — but here’s how you can improve your odds of tracking one down

a photo illustration of a sasquatch walking into a forest carrying a playstation 5
Justin Metz/Bettman/Getty Images

It’s the middle of summer. The last thing you should be thinking about is what to buy your kids for Christmas. And yet for many dads, that’s exactly what’s on their minds.

We’re now coming up on the two-year anniversary of the PlayStation 5 release date. And yet it remains both the scarcest and most hotly desired item for just about every video game-loving kid on the planet. 

Many dads are at their wits’ end. Seriously, why can’t retailers keep PS5s in stock? And why is the manufacturing arm unable to match the market demand?

Even before COVID-19 gripped the globe, manufacturers were facing a distinct shortage of computer chips. These semiconductors are put into everything with a processor, from automobiles and medical equipment to graphics cards and video game consoles. But as the pandemic swaddled the supply chain, the flow of CPU material ground to a bottlenecked stall.

The problem won’t be going away anytime soon. Last month, Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger stated that the shortage could persist into 2024. To put that in perspective, the PS5 will be four years old at that point.

This is all great news for the relentless scalpers who continue to turn a buck on the traffic jam. Yes, it is true that anyone can technically purchase a new PS5 right now, but not from Target, Best Buy, Walmart or Amazon. Head over to StockX, the premier repository for resellers, and you can pick up the console with an added $150 tax, with the extra cash going directly into the pockets of a hustler somewhere across the void. 

Video game consoles are now vulnerable to the same profiteering logic that has dictated the baseball card trade and the sneaker swindle. Prospective scalpers are empowered by automated checkout bots that sniff out restocks as soon as they roll through, buying up the inventory in droves.

Dads everywhere are hoping that eventually the tide will turn. Scarcity for extremely popular goods manufactured by highly powerful companies usually doesn’t last forever. But if you’re struggling to find a console for a son or daughter and don’t want to pay an arm and a leg on StockX, you do have a few options. 

Staying one step ahead of the resellers is tough, since they tend to possess the inside track whenever a store shores up its console supplies. However, several gaming personalities stay locked in on the shipment schedules and alert their followers whenever Amazon furnishes their shelves. (I’d recommend following Matt Swider and Jake Randall.)

Sony Direct also lets customers sign up to be alerted of restocks, but I haven’t personally had great luck with that route. Whatever seller you use, make sure your billing details are filled out in advance, so supplies don’t evaporate as you’re trying to enter your billing and shipping info. 

Todd Albertson, The Arrow’s own design director, once noticed that Walmart had an in-stock label for PS5s and “managed to get one in my cart,” he recalls. But “in the struggle of opening up my Costanza wallet, looking for a card and inputting my info, at checkout it was no longer available. I had to change my shirt after that episode.”

There is some hope that in the very near future, PS5s will be much easier to track down in the wild. Target recently changed a store policy to allow its locations to sell any PS5s they may have in stock without needing to reserve them for future online orders. So next time you’re at the mall, go ahead and pop inside. You might strike gold.

The current situation is advantageous to nobody. Dads are shelling out way more than they should for hardware, and corporations are struggling to meet their sales quotas amid the depleted chip surplus.

But until then, the video game business will resemble this hellish cat-and-mouse game where we’re all pitted against each other in checkout aisles and online queues for years on end, as we chase after a machine that will simply let us pass the time.

All kids want is to play the new Ratchet & Clank in peace. Does it really need to be this hard?