It shouldn’t be this hard to give a multi-billion dollar corporation your hard-earned $500. On Nov. 12, Sony officially released the PlayStation 5. The Microsoft equivalent, the Xbox Series consoles, dropped earlier in the same week. Both tech giants bungled pre-orders in the preceding months, failing to live up to their promises of robust communication around the intricacies of preordering. For most, it has been a similarly insurmountable task to obtain either company’s consoles in the month following their release, and will likely continue into the new year.
SEE: Hiring Kit: Game Developer (TechRepublic Premium)
TechRepublic’s Teena Maddox can provide you with the 411 about her own dash to get one: “For those new to the PS5 shopping game, there are two versions. There is a $400 digital-only model and a $500 console version. The only differences between the two are that the console edition includes an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc drive to allow for PS5 Blu-ray disc games and PS4 Blu-ray disc games, and video from 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays and standard Blu-rays and DVDs.”
Pre-ordering from tech giants
Generally pre-ordering is simple: You buy online, you get it when it’s available. Apple provides an estimate in the number of weeks to delivery, and occasionally Best Buy will leave you with a vague “when it’s ready” for a delivery date. This doesn’t live up to the absurd standard-of-convenience Amazon has made us accustomed to, but there’s a certain security in knowing that your unit is reserved, and you’ll get it eventually.
Many people know that this has not been the case with Sony’s and Microsoft’s new consoles. The quest for the most sought-after tech, notably the PS5, is deceptively benign. Instead, it’s been an uphill, losing battle against bots and servers mobbed with traffic far beyond quoted capacities.
SEE: PS5: Why I’m waiting to buy a PlayStation 5, and why you should, too (TechRepublic)
I know because I participated in every available drop, from Best Buy and Walmart to GameStop, Target, and Antonline. I begged family and friends to try as well.
Sony has had ambiguous wait times in queues to buy directly from the company. Target and Best Buy often had unannounced drops in which stock was sold out within 10 minutes, but more often within the first minute, with bots or limited stock as the culprits.
This process repeated, with at least three restocks a week since launch, all bearing disappointment for the vast majority of prospective buyers, including me.
Resellers and the PS5
I flirted, albeit very briefly, with seeing what resellers had to offer for the disc console I wanted: $917 plus $100 shipping at StockX, $1,100 plus $50 shipping from Ebay, and my favorite, $2K (but with “free” delivery by the post-holiday date of Jan. 5) from The EV Shop. Needless to say, a reseller wasn’t going to be an option for me.
Walmart: The PS5 disc console, at last
Walmart seemed to offer structure, announcing restock times so prospective buyers could be ready. On one occasion, it spread drops throughout a day, in three-hour increments. Even when the console appeared in my cart, a sold-out, removed-from-your-cart notice popped up. Over and over and over. Just within my grasp.
On Dec. 12, I tried to take part in GameStop’s last-minute (seemingly) experimental program where buyers went to actual stores to have GameStop employees (notified 30 minutes prior) order the store’s allotted consoles for them. The Twitter announcement said it would start at 1 p.m. (Pacific time), although the first few purchasers of PS5s–who later walked out waving receipts–weren’t admitted until more than an hour later. (Xbox buyers were pulled out of line to buy immediately.)
It was 2.5 hours of standing socially distanced outside of the Santa Clarita, CA, store before an employee announced they were sold out. It turns out the store had a total of 12 consoles for the queue of about 50 people shivering in the windy weather. Anticipation, hope, and angst permeated the line, each time a GameStop employee emerged with news.
However, on Tuesday, Dec. 15, among Best Buy’s and Walmart’s drops, after a long and frustrating morning of feeling like I kept missing bythismuch at Best Buy, I got the PS5 disc console from Walmart.
Timing, skill or luck to score the PS5 bag
It wasn’t owed to timing, or skill. It was purely luck. I had reached a point of jaded persistence, knowing I likely wouldn’t secure one, but fueled by the knowledge I would regret not trying, knowing the “what if” in my head would bother me.
SEE: PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Why I’m not buying the PlayStation 5 (TechRepublic)
To add insult to injury, many retailers (GameStop most egregiously) chose to bundle the majority of stock with extra controllers, games, and accessories that most buyers don’t need and won’t use. An offer from Curacao: $1,400 for the console, games, accessories, and even a gaming chair.
Whether the problem is Sony (rumored to have cut back initial production of units by 3 million, which Sony denies), the individual retailers’ failure to implement measures to counteract bots, whose inhuman efficiency and speed can buy consoles to be sold by resellers.
If you haven’t yet resigned yourself to waiting until stock is plentiful, there are many social media sites you can use, like zoolert.com, and Twitter accounts like @wario64, @videogamedeals, and many more. These provide a heads-up when stock is added to all major retailers, especially if the restocks are announced ahead of time. However, there’s also a human component in these resources, and the update may reach you when it’s too late. Manage expectations, though my heart is with you if you hope to secure one for a child as a holiday gift this month.
There are no guarantees with this process. Through it all, know that sometime soon these consoles will be available. Don’t let them wear you down.
This article was updated on Dec. 18, 2020.