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PSA: Buy your video game console gifts early. They will sell out

The holidays are approaching, and I know what you’re thinking: One month is plenty of time to track down all the gifts you need to buy. Especially in the age of one-day Amazon deliveries, it’s never been a better time to be a last-minute shopper. Surely you’ll be able to log into your Best Buy account on December 15, buy a PlayStation 5, and get it under the tree in time, right?

Trust me: You’ll want to kick that mindset to the curb ASAP if you want to have a happy, stress-free holiday. Getting a new video game console before December 25 is no easy task this year. In fact, you might already be too late.

A serious shortage

Video game consoles are currently a hot — and hard to find — commodity. There are a few key reasons for that. First off, the video game industry saw a massive boom in 2020 as people turned to gaming to pass the time during Covid-induced social isolation. Consoles like the Nintendo Switch began selling out as interest in the industry grew. While that’s slowed a bit in 2021, games now have a larger audience than ever, which means more people trying to get consoles.

That popularity spurt also lined up with the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S last November. Shiny new consoles are always exciting, so they’re typically tough to get at launch. A scarcity crisis soon sprouted as scalpers gobbled up consoles and began reselling them for exorbitant prices. Retailers have yet to get that problem under control, and it still rages today — even with new hardware like the Nintendo Switch OLED model.

Both of those factors have been exacerbated by the biggest problem of all: The dreaded chip shortage. As you may know by now, key parts needed to power many electronics are in short supply right now — a supply chain issue largely spurred by the pandemic. Those chips are unfortunately crucial for creating new consoles, which has lowered supply significantly for a year with no end in sight.

All of that creates a perfect recipe for disaster. Everyone wants a new console, but manufacturers physically can’t produce them quickly enough. Even when they do, scalpers are able to swoop in and eat up the limited stock that is around. If you still haven’t been able to find a PS5 for your disappointed kid, that’s why.

What can you do?

There are no easy answers here. The first step is simply recognizing how serious the situation is. This isn’t a normal “hot holiday toy” situation where you simply need to go to a few stores until you track down a Tickle-Me-Elmo. Retailers get very limited supply drops, and there’s not much anyone can do to accelerate the process.

Knowing that will help you move without hesitation once you do find the console you’re trying to buy. Teach yourself not to think twice. You aren’t going to find an Xbox Series X for a lower price somewhere else. If you see it go on sale on Best Buy’s website, you shouldn’t spend a second pondering if it’ll come up on Amazon soon. The moment you see one, in-store or online, that’s your cue to jump.

That’s especially good advice for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Those dates will likely be some of the last times retailers will have consoles in stock before the holiday. Outside some left-field drops in December, your window for success is closing. Don’t take that as an invitation to trample other shoppers at Walmart post-Thanksgiving dinner, but be prepared to add one to your cart the second you see it in the wild.

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