When the PlayStation 5 launched in November 2020, obtaining the console seemed elusive. That’s how it always is. A new piece of hardware is released, hype ensues and the console becomes incredibly hard to get. Eventually, things settle down.
By July 2021, the PS5 had become Sony’s fastest-selling console ever, reaching the 10 million sales mark quicker than the PS4. People were still buying Sony’s latest gaming machine in droves, and so getting one wasn’t easy.
This wasn’t my first rodeo, so to speak, as I’ve been buying game consoles for decades. To snag a new PlayStation on launch day in years past meant waiting overnight in front of an electronics store. More recently, I’ve started to shy away from such exhausting stunts, thinking that I can just wait until the consoles are readily available.
What’s more, the first batch of any hardware can be buggy with system errors, so it’s better to wait until any manufacturing kinks have been ironed out. At that time, I can just walk into a store and pick one up, avoiding waiting in long lines. As companies continue to make the devices, they become faster at churning them out. As an added bonus, by the time I’m ready to purchase a console, more games are released making sure that there’s definitely stuff to play. Shopping almost becomes a pleasant experience.
A year after its launch, that’s simply not the case for the PS5. I cannot easily walk into a store and purchase one. If I hope to secure one, I need to line up at a store or enter a lottery for a chance to buy one. If I want to buy a PS5 online, I’ll need to contend with bots before available stock appears to vanish in a flash. There simply aren’t enough of the devices to go around.
Famitsu reports that in the week before Christmas, less than 8,000 PS5 consoles were sold in Japan. In comparison, the No. 1 selling console that week, the Nintendo Switch, sold more than 46,000 units. The Switch doesn’t necessarily appear to be an easy console to snag, either.
This isn’t Sony’s fault. Semiconductor shortages meant getting a PS5 seemed more difficult than ever, even months after its release. The global supply chain has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns have led to factory and shipping disruptions.
Lockdowns have also meant that people have been spending more time at home, and the demand for devices has also increased. Couple all this with the factory that, only a handful of facilities are able to produce the necessary chips has, in turn, led to a global chip shortage, impacting everything from game consoles to cars.
According to Bloomberg, Sony had apparently hoped to produce more than 16 million PS5 consoles in the current fiscal year, which ends on March 31. With the global shortages impacting supply, Sony says it’s on track to sell 14.8 million units.
How much longer will this continue? It’s a tough question to answer.
“The supply of chips will remain very tight until at least September next year,” Takeshi Kamebuchi, a director in charge of semiconductors at Toshiba, told Bloomberg. In some instances, Kamebuchi added, this could continue until 2023.
Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger has been less optimistic about things improving in the near term, repeatedly saying that the shortages will last until 2023 due to the time needed to increase capacity. I guess that means if I want a PS5 anytime soon, I had better get in line.
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