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Why the PS5 video game console is still so hard to find — and tips on how to score one

Online bots and holiday deals
Online bots are making it harder to find holiday deals this year 03:34

When Sony debuted the PlayStation 5 in November 2020, supplies quickly sold out, while gamers battled bots to scoop up limited inventory. A year later, scoring one of the video game consoles remains a tall task, frustrating consumers. 

"It's the hot item. Your kids want it, and you want to make your kids happy and it's exciting to say you got one," said Michael Kan, a reporter at PCMag who has tracked the console shortage. "It's going to be extremely hard, especially now — it's really about how determined you are."

The PS5 isn't cheap: The digital edition sells for $400, while the Blue-ray console will set you back $500. And that's if you manage to find one at the retail price. On eBay and other sites, resellers are marking up the consoles to $700 or more

So why is the PS5 still tough to track down a year after its commercial release? 

It boils down to the supply-chain problems, bots and the methods that retailers are using to sell the console, experts say. To be sure, it's not only the PS5 that's in short supply this year. Experts note that other gaming devices, such the Nintendo Switch OLED edition and popular graphics cards, can also be hard to find.

Tips for your last-minute holiday shopping and shipping 06:48

The supply-chain issues have taken a toll on production of the PS5, with Sony paring back the number of units it expects to make before March to 15 million from its prior goal of 16 million, Bloomberg News reported. The company has pointed to logistics snarls and parts shortages as COVID-19 hit regions where chips and other essentials are made. 

Faster bots

Then there are the bots. These software programs are created to purchase in-demand products as soon as they go on sale. Because they're automated, the programs can complete online transactions far faster than any human. And the bots have gotten faster and better since last year, Kan said.

"A year ago, it was so much easier to buy these products — you would at least have one minute" before the bots jumped in, he said. "But now, even if you get on during the first second of a restock, you still aren't guaranteed getting a console. No one anticipated things would become so bad."

Scoring a console is still possible, but it will take effort. For Steve Butterfield, a public policy expert in Augusta, Maine, who bought three PS5s this year (two were for friends), the search was both frustrating and "kind of fun, in its own way."

Butterfield said that his four-month wait for a new dishwasher — yet another product that has been hit by the chip shortage — was actually worse than the wait for a PS5. "It took longer to get a dishwasher than to get a PS5," he noted.

Below are tips about how to score a console. 

Follow PS5 restock trackers on Twitter

Look to social media for help in finding out when the PS5 is restocked at merchants such as Best Buy, Costco and Walmart. Butterfield said he owes his three PS5 purchases to tweets on the latest restocks by Matt Swider, founder of, whom Butterfield follows on Twitter.

Butterfield set up an alert to let him know whenever Swider tweeted, which meant he was instantly notified of restocks and was able to jump on an available purchase. In the end, Butterfield bought one PS5 from Walmart, a second from Target and a third directly from Sony. 

"The retailers are always restocking these products, and you want to know when they restock it — it could be today, tomorrow or this minute," PCMag's Kan said. "You can find certain users that all they do is they specialize in tracking the restocks, so you follow those users and set up alerts on your Twitter account."

Swider didn't return a request for comment. Other accounts that tweet about restocks include @CameronRitz and @lordofrestocks

Join retailers' membership programs

Another way purchasing a PS5 has gotten more difficult compared with last year: Some retailers restrict access to popular items to customers who belong to their membership programs.

"We have noticed these retailers will only sell their consoles for people in their membership programs," Kan said. "You have to be in Walmart+ or Best Buy Totaltech" to purchase the devices. 

That advice may not appeal to some consumers, but others may be willing to shell out for the memberships. Walmart+ costs $98 a year, although it offers a 15-day trial. Best Buy Totaltech is pricier at about $200 a year. 

Check out may not yet be a household name, but the site is gaining fans for its real-time product-tracking capabilities. While it's not specifically geared to PS5s, lists the console as one of its most popular items. 

Hotstock tracks inventory at dozens of retailers, from to Walmart. Using its app, consumers can set up alerts for specific products so they are notified when an item is restocked at a particular store. 

One thing to know: sends out alerts to premium subscribers first, who pay $5.99 for the service. So if you are using the free service, you'll get alerted slightly later, which could be a problem when seconds count. 

Try, try again

Patience and persistence is key, experts say. Kan said he tried to buy a PS5 earlier this year and finally landed one after about three weeks of trying. (In the end, he decided not to purchase it since he has a PS4 and didn't feel the need to get the newer device.)

"It's like playing the lottery at this point," he added. "If you are really determined, you can get it. It might take a few weeks or months."

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