Getting your hands on an Xbox Series X is easier than ever, and yet PS5 stock remains scarce. So what's Microsoft’s secret? Are its factories churning out more consoles? Or is simply that demand for the PS5 is higher? Here’s our take on why the Series X is (at the time of writing) much easier to buy than the PS5…
At first glance, the Xbox Series X and Sony PS5 are cut from the same cloth (or in this case, high-density polyethylene). Both launched in November 2020, both are assembled in China, and both are powered by next-gen AMD chips that have ushered in a new era of lightning-fast load times and 4K gaming.
Both machines sold out within hours of debuting and remained in short supply throughout last year. Then, as 2022 arrived, so did the Series X stock. By the truckload.
Today, a quick search for "Xbox Series X" reveals a healthy supply at four UK retailers. Smyths Toys has the "Xbox ‘Series X 1TB Console" available in store for £449.99, with the option to click and collect that same day. Amazon and the Microsoft Store also have units for sale when we look. The latter even stocks "Certified Refurbished" Xbox Series X consoles starting from $470 in the US and £420 in the UK (a 6 per cent saving on the usual RRP).
It’s just as easy to find Series X stock in the US now that Walmart offers regular Series X drops to anyone with a paid Walmart+ membership ($14.99 a month). The cheaper Xbox Series S, powered by a more modest AMD chip, is even more plentiful.
In fact, supply of the Series S has eased to such an extent in the US that some retailers have begun to discount the MSRP. In early March 2022, deals site Woot slashed $50 off the Series S, dropping the price to $249.99. By contrast, the PS5 console continues to change hands at the asking price (and sometimes more) on eBay.
OK, time to unravel this mystery. Microsoft has yet to confirm the precise reasons for the extra stock, but according to reputable analysts and our own research on the web, we think there are three big reasons why the Xbox Series X is so much easier to buy than the PS5…
1. Microsoft is winning the chip shortage war
The global chip shortage, which was caused by the 2020 pandemic and compounded by supply chain issues in 2021, is the reason why gamers struggled to find Xbox Series X and PS5 stock last year.
Fixing the problem will take a while yet – building a new chip factory can cost $20bn and take two years – but there is light at the end of the tunnel. In a January 2022 interview with The New York Times, Xbox boss Phil Spencer revealed that Microsoft was "spending a lot of time thinking about how we move consoles from A to B location and securing chips".
Has Microsoft been airfreighting product into the country, as Sony did in November when it reportedly landed three planeloads of PS5s at Heathrow to bolster its UK Christmas stock? Spencer didn’t go into detail, but whatever logistics spell Microsoft has cast, it seems to be paying off.
According to Spencer, Xbox supply is now "as big as it's ever been".
Xbox analyst Nick Baker sheds more light on the story. He claims that last April, Microsoft invested heavily in chip production in order to secure future orders. In other words, Baker claims that the firm paid to prioritise chip production, which has resulted in healthier stock in both the UK and US.
"Money was the reason," Baker said, speaking on the Xbox Era podcast. "Microsoft paid, effectively, to increase their production and have more stock. To me, smart investment. This is the time to do it; people want stock. If you want more subscribers on Game Pass, you’re not going to get them if people can’t get the console."
Microsoft is known as M$ for a reason. And it looks like its chequebook might be paying dividends.
Though it's worth noting that the firm hasn't confirmed Baker's claims as yet. We reached out to Microsoft for comment, and will update this if we hear back.
2. Demand for the PS5 is higher
Historically, demand for Sony's latest and greatest games console has always been higher than for Microsoft's. Sure, the Xbox outsold the PS5 in both North America and Europe for the first time ever in February 2022, but that's likely a result of the Series X becoming more readily available.
The hard truth is that PlayStation 5 sales were 1.7 times greater than Xbox Series X/S sales in 2021. Indeed, most reputable analysts expect the PS5 to outsell the Xbox Series X by 2 to 1 in 2022.
So, what does the PS5 have that the Series X doesn't? Both machines are evenly matched and some might argue that the Series X has the edge as it offers more than 100 titles optimised for Dolby Vision HDR (the PS5 makes do with regular HDR10 support).
Ultimately, it all boils down to brand loyalty. PlayStation began winning the hearts of minds of gamers back in 1994 – a full seven years before the first Xbox arrived on the scene. It's one reason why sales of the PS4 currently stand at 115.79 million units – more than double the Xbox One’s 50.19 million.
The upside to the PS5's pulling power? It's easier to hunt down an Xbox Series X.
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3. PS5 restocks are still targeted by scalpers
The rarer the PS5 is, the more attractive it is to scalpers – and the more those precious PS5 restocks are targetted by scalpers and bots. It's a cycle that's continued since launch.
So far, Sony seems unable to keep enough consoles on the shelf to break this cycle and satisfy demand. With experienced scalpers – folks who snap-up multiple consoles to resell online at usurious markups – rumoured to be making around $3,000 (around £2300 / AU$4200) a month in the US, the situation is unlikely to resolve itself.
A quick look on eBay confirms far fewer Xbox Series X consoles for sale on the online marketplace. Prices for the Xbox have fallen much closer to retail. It's clear that the Sony PS5 is still the hot ticket for scalpers, since it can still command a relatively high markup.
Now you can walk into a lot of places and pick up an Xbox Series X, and with supplies growing more plentiful by the day, it does appear that Microsoft has broken the stock shortage cycle once and for all (fingers crossed).
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So there you have it. Three solid reasons why the Xbox Series X is much easier to find than the PS5. The good news for gamers of all stripes? AMD, which makes the chips in both flagship games consoles, has promised to increase chip production in 2022 and predicts a "strong" year for both Sony and Microsoft.
Xbox certainly seems to have got its act (and supply chain) together, we just hope PlayStation can follow suit in the coming months.
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