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This is why it’s so hard to buy a PS5 right now

It’s a tale of unprecedented demand and unprecedented problems in global manufacturing

Alex Lee
Thursday 01 January 1970 01:00 BST
Getting the console blues? We’re keeping an eye on stock so you don’t have to
Getting the console blues? We’re keeping an eye on stock so you don’t have to (The Independent)

When gamers tore open their PlayStation 5 Amazon deliveries last year and found themselves greeted by some cat food, a bag of grain and a George Foreman grill, the seer in us knew that terrible things lay ahead for this glorious game console. 

A bad omen has been hanging over Sony’s latest flagship console ever since those packages dropped on people’s doorsteps in early November, with PS5s constantly selling out as soon as they appeared on retailers’ websites.

It’s become so difficult for people to get their hands on a PS5 that it’s spawned a whole Twitter community of stock trackers, as well as a 24,500-strong community of Redditors all trying to nab the console before it sells out again.

When the console does come back in stock, retailers’ websites are so overloaded with customers that many of the sites crash; error out when you add the PS5 to your basket; put you in a queue for hours; or simply vanish within seconds, as if the consoles were merely a mirage. It’s the same story for the Xbox Series X.

We’ve been tracking the PS5 restocks ourselves and updating our page with expected dates and times, including when we hear rumours of potential drops, all throughout the day. So it’s worth checking in if you still haven’t managed to secure a console.

But while we know the PS5 is like console gold dust – a state of affairs expected to continue until 2022 at least – why, exactly, is the PlayStation 5 so hard to come by? Keep on reading to discover the answer.  

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Why is the PS5 out of stock?

There’s a number of reasons why the PS5 is always out of stock, but it all stems from the same source: the Covid-19 crisis. The PS5 launched in the middle of a global pandemic. When the manufacturing industry shut down and snapped production supply chains.

But while household appliances and rolls of tissue paper eventually came back into stores and onto shelves, the PS5 has proved a different beast entirely.

Not only did the pandemic see production lines shut down and manufacturing slow to a snail’s pace due to social-distancing measures, it also saw people stay at home. By November, the banana bread had all been baked and the Joe Wicks PE mania had come to an end, and all people wanted to do was sit in their pants and play games on Sony’s new console. Demand was through the roof at the same time that every part of the world suffered a shortage in semiconductors, delaying the production of consumer electronics even further.

Couple that with issues in distribution and you have the recipe for what you see today. To make matters worse, the Ever Given cargo ship blocked the Suez Canal – a high-traffic waterway responsible for a large portion of the direct shipping between Europe and Asia – for a week. A reported $9.6 billion (£6.8bn) worth of goods was being held up in the canal each day.

Why is Sony not making enough PS5 consoles?

It’s not that Sony doesn’t want to make more PS5 consoles available – of course it does, with such high demand – but it physically can’t. As mentioned above, the PS5 has been impacted by the global semiconductor shortage. The PS5 runs on chips from AMD.

AMD doesn’t manufacture the chips itself, it merely designs them, and like many other semiconductor companies, it outsources the manufacturing to companies like Taiwan-based TSMC. Sony isn’t the only company trying to get its hands on the precious chips, but basically every consumer electronic company too. No semiconductors, no PS5s.

That said, according to Sony’s CEO Jim Ryan, we could be about to see more PS5 consoles enter production this summer. “We’re working as hard as we can to ameliorate that situation,” Ryan told Wired in an interview in May. “We see production ramping up over the summer and certainly into the second half of the year, and we would hope to see some sort of return to normality in terms of the balance between supply and demand during that period.”

For now, we’ll just have to wait. We’ll keep on checking on stock and updating our PS5 tracker page with future drops whenever we find out more information.

While you wait for the PS5 to come back in stock, check out our round-ups of the best PS5 games and the best PS5 accessories

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