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After Years Of Discord Servers And Timed Drops, You Can (Maybe) Buy A PS5 At A Store

For years, new-gen console buyers had to use online resources to procure a PS5, but that might be changing for good.


During previous console generations, the concept of popping down to your local big-box store and buying the hot new console of your choice wasn't a luxury--it's simply how things worked. Over the past two years, the pandemic completely changed the way that most people shop for desirable items such as the PS5 and Xbox Series X. In recent months, however, there have been indications that the new shortage culture surrounding video game consoles might be fading--at least in the short term.

If you tried to get your hands on a PS5 or Xbox Series X in the past two years, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Eager would-be buyers were greeted by "out-of-stock" messages at every retailer. Advertised restocks would run dry within a minute or two after the gate opened, if they didn't crash for you in the first-place. This isn't the first console shortage that gamers have dealt with--the Wii suffered from issues at launch--but it's arguably the worst ever. However, while the Xbox Series X became relatively easy to find in 2022, the PS5 has continued to suffer from serious supply constraints.

The pandemic-era shortages can be blamed on a wide variety of factors: an increased interest in gaming as a hobby, ongoing shortages of important components, and general supply-chain issues. During that period, it was virtually impossible to buy a new-gen console for MSRP without using outside resources to locate the right opportunities. Desperate buyers turned to a secondary culture of Discord servers, Telegram channels, and Twitch streams in order to find the next drop and take advantage.

Luke Winkie is a journalist who enjoys playing video games, both in his spare time and for work. When the PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles were announced for preorder back in 2020, Winkie had limited interest in picking up the new machines at launch--they just didn't seem impressive enough to justify the effort. Besides, he figured that he could buy one in a few months, when the shortages inevitably gave way.

The God of War: Ragnarok PS5 bundle has emerged as a popular holiday option.
The God of War: Ragnarok PS5 bundle has emerged as a popular holiday option.

Though he was able to get a Series X shortly after release without much effort, the PS5 eluded him--as it did many other interested parties. Now, two years later, he's finally got his hands on the machine, and though the purchasing process was totally painless after such a long wait, he's still a tiny bit bitter about the whole affair.

"For me, it wasn't really a choice," Winkie says. "I wasn't going to play the restock sniping game. I'm just too old for that sort of thing. In some way, my refusal to play that game is a bit of a protest at how ridiculous the shortage has been. The PS5 should be easy to get. It's been two years."

True to his word, Winkie managed to buy a PS5 at Target after randomly discovering that they had God of War Ragnarok bundles in stock in the pre-Black Friday period. Given that Ragnarok was the game that he decided he couldn't miss out on, it worked out well. However, while Winkie is happy with his PS5, he's still waiting for PC components to stabilize before he upgrades his rig.

"I've felt less of a desire to shop around because of how competitive the market is," he says. "The faster this stuff goes back to normal, the better."

GameSpot contributor Jenny Zheng had a similar experience. As a PC and Switch gamer, they didn't feel the need to leap out and buy a PS5 at launch, especially once it became apparent that that would involve hanging out with random people in online social spaces like Discord or Telegram. As an avid gamer and journalist, Zheng does follow several sources that send them notifications about good gaming deals, including a few Discord channels. However, there was something about the PS5 shortage that they found particularly annoying--especially since Zheng didn't regard it as an instant need.

"I'm sad to say that I'm lazy regarding consumer purchases," Zheng explains. "I will not obsessively go out of my way to obtain XYZ thing, from Ticketmaster to PS5 queues. You will not see me in them. None of the exclusives were a must-have for me."

Zheng still ended up casually buying their PS5 Madden bundle at GameStop, despite having no interest in the football game. Though they admit they could've waited for a better bundle option, the easy availability of the box at their local game store was too easy to resist. Overall, Zheng is more than happy with their decision to wait for the box--even if it did take quite a while to sort out.

The Xbox Series X has become fairly easy to find on store shelves, but the PS5 is still largely missing in action.
The Xbox Series X has become fairly easy to find on store shelves, but the PS5 is still largely missing in action.

However, the same can be said for gamer Cassie Thomas, who bought a PS5 a few months after launch. Like most buyers from that period, Thomas relied on an emerging network of deals servers in order to secure the console.

Unlike those who might look at long queues or inconvenient drop times as a major hurdle, as a streetwear fan and sneakerhead, Thomas has spent years acclimating to such measures. To them, the PS5 was just another hot item to cop. And luckily for Thomas, they were able to find a Walmart PS5 bundle through a Telegram chat with all the accessories they wanted--albeit after wasting away on a Sony waitlist for months without a word.

"Part of the appeal of the Telegram channel I ultimately joined was that no messages from users were permitted," Thomas says. "It provided notifications about upcoming drops, and nothing else. Compared to the process of buying a hyped shoe release, I found the checkout process to be pretty seamless, with no website crashes or painful queues."

Speaking for myself, I noticed at least 2-3 PS5 consoles sitting on store shelves in my local area in the early December period. Nevertheless, with the advent of the holiday season, one can't help but wonder if the excess stock will be snapped up by last-minute holiday shoppers in the coming days. In doing research for this piece, I found that many retailers are still out of stock online, including Best Buy and Walmart. Amazon continues to use a raffle-like "invitation" system, and on eBay, you can find plenty of PS5s listed for sale for $50 to $100 over MSRP. It's also worth noting that you can usually find PS5s in stock on PlayStation Direct, if you'd rather cut out the middleman entirely.

As a whole, as long as these consoles aren't permanently sitting on store shelves, the online deals community will continue to churn. However, once the holiday boom fades, it seems like an end to the shortage madness may be in sight.

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