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PlayStation 5 was restocked at Target. Here’s why it won’t last long

Blame supply shortages, shopping bots, and actual human demand.

PlayStation 5 was restocked at Target. Here’s why it won’t last long
[Photo: Sony]
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If you’re engaged in a daily ritual of trying to find stores that have restocked their PlayStation 5 supply, you might’ve had a glimmer of hope this morning.

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Tom’s Guide reports that select Target stores were showing some PlayStation 5 consoles in stock. A quick search reveals that a few Targets in the New York City metro area have stock, but I’m not seeing any stores in my local Cincinnati area where that’s the case. Since you can’t reserve a console online, even rushing out to a nearby store based on inventory listings could be a fruitless endeavor.

The Midwest supermarket chain Meijer also posted a Playstation 5 “restock alert” on Twitter, but with no way to check inventory online. Meijer’s Twitter account says you’ll have to show up at the store and look for a sign to confirm that the console is in stock—and presumably buy some groceries while you’re there if you come up empty.

Meanwhile, Kotaku reports on a chaotic scene at a retailer in Tokyo, which tried to hold a major PlayStation 5 restock event last week. The sale was ultimately cancelled as police had to disperse the mob of prospective shoppers.

Supplying enough consoles has been an ongoing problem for both Sony with its PlayStation 5 and Microsoft with its Xbox Series S and Series X since the new systems launched last fall. As Bloomberg reported in December, the coronavirus pandemic has led to shortages in the tech industry supply chain. That in turn has created a golden opportunity for scalpers, who’ve used shopping bots to automate the process of snatching up consoles sold online.

Compounding the matter: There’s a lot of actual human demand for the new systems, which represent the first major generational leap in home game consoles in seven years.

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At least in the early days, the bots have been prevailing. Sales data from Famitsu, as reported by Bloomberg in December, shows that the number of PlayStation 5 sales is about three times higher than sales of the top three games on the platform. A normal ratio would be around one to one; the fact that it’s so skewed suggests that a lot of the new consoles aren’t ending up in the hands of players.

Bloomberg also reported that chip supply from key vendors will be limited through the first half of this year, a sentiment echoed by Microsoft last week. Speaking to the New York Times, head of investor relations Mike Spencer said to expect Xbox Series S and Series X supply shortages through at least June.

And so the daily restock ritual shall continue for the foreseeable future.