Is Mere Availability The Key To Success For PS5 And Xbox Series X This Generation?

In the past, a game console’s success in competing against other major systems was based on a few recurring factors. They were the obvious ones–game lineup, price, unique features, power–but this generation is already a lot different. After a full year, both the Xbox Series X and the PS5 remain nearly impossible to find, even for those vigilantly waiting on Walmart and Best Buy pages for the latest supply to go on sale. Continued parts shortages and shipping issues exacerbated by the global pandemic have kept supply far below demand, making any public sales figures for the systems less about which is more popular and more about which company could make the most. With no end in sight for some of the key factors contributing to the consoles’ scarcity, their mere availability could be a metric for success this generation.

Back in April, I wrote a piece detailing why both the Xbox Series X and PS5 were so difficult to find–about five months after the consoles launched. At the time, it was already an unusually long period of scarcity for the systems, and nothing has changed since then. For context, a graph of search interest for both “Xbox One stock” and “PS4 stock” shows a big peak in November 2013, followed by a fairly sharp decline that had bottomed out by the end of winter. From that point on, finding an Xbox One or PS4 wasn’t all that difficult. If the local Walmart didn’t have one, the local Target, Best Buy, or GameStop probably did.

The systems became commonplace as exclusive games began releasing more frequently. In the case of Xbox Series X and PS5, there is indeed a decline in search traffic over those succeeding months following launch, but it never completely died off, likely because some of the same people hoping to secure a console in 2020 still haven’t done so. Some are patiently, and fruitlessly, waiting for a chance to hand these companies their money, and this limbo period still doesn’t have a clear endpoint. Sony seems to be hedging its bets on the issue, as well, with several of its high-profile games, including the upcoming God of War: Ragnarok and Horizon Forbidden West, launching on PS4 in addition to PS5. That would ostensibly reduce players’ need to get a PS5, though the speed with which they sell out and the price on reseller markets show that demand is a non-issue.

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Author: Gabe Gurwin