NICOLAS PAPA WRITES — The launch of Japanese tech giant Sony’s newest video game system, the Playstation 5, in November of last year was quite possibly the most eagerly anticipated console launch in video game history.
Sony’s Playstation console series dominates the video game market, with its previous four iterations taking four of the top five spots on the list of best- selling consoles of all time, with 451 million total units sold (a figure that dwarfs its competitors’). The Playstation 5’s November 12th release shattered all records before it, selling more units and bringing in more dollar sales than any console release in U.S. history. It doubled the sales of the Xbox One, its biggest competitor (made by rival Microsoft) in the U.S. and sold seven times more units in Japan. The PS5’s initial success made it look like an unstoppable force of consumerism – that is, until the realities of the Covid-19 pandemic set in.
Almost every economic sector has been damaged by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the video game industry is no exception. The mandate for physical distancing has led to an upset in production– chiefly, a shortage of semiconductors. These semiconductors are an essential component of not only the Playstation 5 but of other everyday electronics. Smartphones, televisions, automobiles, washing machines, and graphics cards all need semiconductors in order to function. Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan mentioned not only that “supply chains became a little more complicated than would normally be the case” but also that “The transition to an unprecedented online distribution model hasn’t helped either.”
The huge demand for the Playstation 5 and the need for social distancing to stop the spread of the virus meant a traditional release at retail stores wasn’t possible. The almost entirely online release led to the PS5 being targeted by scalpers, or buyers who use bot software that allows them to pretend to be multiple people so as to purchase vast numbers of consoles, then re-sell at heavily inflated prices. Given all this, now Playstation 5 sells out in a matter of seconds- as soon as restocks are announced. If you, quite literally, blink, the PS5 will be gone.
The launch of the Playstation 5 was a perfect storm of supply and demand problems: A lack of semiconductors, a pandemic that prevented people from lining up at stores and a digital release abused by scalpers. It’s the most sought -after piece of technology in the world, at least within the video game industry. Yet unless you’re willing to devote hours on the internet fighting, you won’t be able to get one until we move out of Covid-19 pandemic and production levels go back to normal. So hurry up and…don’t hold your breath waiting.