Why it matters: It's a great time to be a gamer: Nvidia's RTX 3000 series, the PS5, and the Xbox Series X/S have arrived or will soon hit the market, but buying or pre-ordering these products is proving difficult. In the case of Microsoft's machine, don't expect availability to improve much before the end of the year.
The PlayStation 5 pre-orders were a bit of a fiasco, with many retailers ignoring Sony's official start date and going live a day early. The consoles were listed as out of stock in minutes—bots played a part, as was the case with the RTX 3080 and RTX 3090—and trying to secure a PS5 on launch day now means paying exorbitant prices on eBay.
The Xbox Series X and Series S pre-orders faired slightly better, though many sites did crash under the weight of people trying to secure a next-gen console on day 1—they actually sold out faster than the PS5. Microsoft later said those that failed to order in advance should sign up with retailers for updates and expect more consoles to be available on November 10.
In an interview on the Dropped Frames podcast, however, Xbox boss Phil Spencer has warned that demand is expected to outpace supply for at least the next few months, so those hoping to be playing an Xbox Series X or S over the holidays might be disappointed.
Pre-ordering and buying the latest gaming hardware has been a bit of a nightmare for many consumers over the last few weeks—I was one of many to place a PS5 in their Amazon basket, only to see it disappear before reaching the checkout. Nvidia did promise to introduce methods of fighting the bots following the RTX 3080 launch, but the RTX 3090 experienced similar problems. Some retailers have tried their own anti-bot plans, including one UK firm that is charging $3,000 for an Xbox Series X and issuing buyers with vouchers. Spencer says the whole system needs a revamp.
"You have these pre-orders, and you want it to be a positive event, and you want it to be a positive event for the community, and obviously, it's hard, " he said. "We sell out in a couple of hours, and we think, 'Well, what good was that?' We end up with more frustrated people. I think, as an industry, we're going to have to rethink that in some ways, because of the bots and everything else. It's not a great situation. We've been doing debriefs with all of our retailers, asking 'Hey, are there things we can do to make this better?'"
Spencer recently revealed some good news for PC owners: all the next-gen Xbox games will be coming to the Microsoft Store and Steam.