The holidays are coming, and one of the hottest video game consoles on the market — the PlayStation 5 — is still the hardest to get. But, I was able to get my hands on one last year when inventory was scarce.
The consoles launched in November 2020 and quickly sold 10 million units from launch. That’s a lot. So, why are so many people still having trouble?
Before I dive into how I got scored one, let’s talk quickly about why the PS5 is still so hard to find. First, there are two types: a PS5 with a disk reader and one without, meaning the games are store on a solid-state drive only. One of the main reasons is the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on trade and production worldwide, including a power chip shortage that severely slowed production on a lot of electronics.
Also hurting the supply chain are scalpers who use bots to scour websites for any restocks, and then purchase multiple consoles for resale at a drastically higher price, hoping to bank on desperate consumers.
As you can see, it has become an almost cutthroat game looking for these consoles, but somehow I did it. And I also ended up stumbling upon a community that was up just as late I was, refreshing web pages, dreaming of the games we’d play when we got our console … and cursing scalpers. In fact, I still play games with some of them from time to time.
Here are some tips to get you ahead of the the scalpers. (PC master race fanboys: Get out!)
Twitter … no really
First, I followed multiple accounts on Twitter that would keep an eye on any PS5 drops online or in person.
These accounts watch all major retailers, including Best Buy, Amazon, Target, GameStop, and the PlayStation Store. These accounts will even look for drops on specialty electronics sites like Newegg.com.
You should be wary of following an account that’s just pedaling suspicious links. That’s a valid concern. The way to tell you’re not following a bot account is to check if it’s active, meaning it’s consistently posting almost every day and interacting with its followers.
Some of the accounts I used to follow include Wario64, SupplyNinja, and Matt Swider, all legitimate accounts.
The best way to tell a restock account is fake? If they are posting fishy “contests” or ask you to DM them to purchase a console.
Also, if you’re in it for the long haul, then turn on the notifications.
Your phone will be going off quite a bit. As a reporter, I’m used to the constant pinging, but once you get your console you can easily turn off those notifications.
There are more loud, unsettling notifications.
Welcome to Twitch
Look, I was already into watching streamers on Twitch before looking for my PS5, but I did find a community under KillerCam1020. It’s free to follow and watch.
This streamer has created a program that refreshes every site to keep an eye out for PS5, Xbox Series X, and even Nintendo Switch restocks. People will also chat among themselves, giving their own helpful tips or success stories.
It is a console restock support group of sorts. If you want to delve deeper into that community for help, you can join the Discord channel, which is a messaging service that is used mostly among gamers.
But don’t fret, KillerCam1020’s Discord isn’t just for gamers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve chatted with parents desperately trying to get a console for their kids, or non-gamers wanting to surprise their significant other.
The Twitch channel is also fun because if the bot happens to find a restock, it will play the loudest notification sound. It’s been a while since I’ve watched the channel, but it was this. (And yes, it did wake me up one night.)
A word of caution: The community does have its share of people talking about rumored online Target restocks at 3 a.m. Something they heard about because their cousin’s boyfriend’s sister works at Target turns into a rumor turns into me pulling an all-nighter. I can’t tell you how much sleep I lost because I was refreshing web pages for drops that didn’t come.
Stay up at your own risk, and remember there are drops during the day.
Black Friday is around the corner. The lines might be coming back this year, but online is still the way to go.
PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images
The PlayStation Store
This is how I got my PS5.
One of the Twitter accounts I followed tweeted that the PlayStation Store was going drop some consoles soon.
As soon as the inventory is live, Sony places every visitor that comes to the site into an online queue. If you’re lucky like I was, you’ll be toward the front. If the PS5s don’t sell out, you will be let into the online store to place a console in your cart and check out.
You will pay for shipping, unless you’re a PlayStation Plus member. Sign up, but not it’s not free. The one-year recurring membership is $9.99 a month, but if you’re a PS Plus member you will have the console shipped to you within two days at no extra cost. (And, for the record, I don’t regret having a PS Plus membership.)
This all seems daunting, and it is. Welcome to capitalism. It took me some time before I finally got my hands on one.
Here are a few extra steps you can take to get a head start.
- Create an account at all major online retailers and have your payment information saved. I made sure that I was signed in to every online store every day. It’s shaves off about a minute until checkout. That time is crucial.
- Tap your network. If you truly do know your cousin’s boyfriend’s sister who works at Target, and they are telling you that consoles are coming in soon it’s probably safe to take them at their word. There is nothing wrong with the traditional waiting in line and purchasing from the store in-person, just make sure it’s a legitimate source.
- Consider a bundle. If you have a little extra funds saved up, you could go for one of the many bundle drops. The bundles usually come with an extra controller and game or two. However, a bundle will cost you. I’ve seen legitimate bundles (not resale) run over $800.
- Stay strong. Do not buy one of the resale consoles that will run over $1,000.
- Get some rest. The holidays are coming up. There is going to be multiple drops in the coming months. If you miss one, don’t lose sleep over it — there’s always another one.