I take back what I said about it getting easier to get a PS5. For a minute there, it seemed like the PS5 shortage really was starting to ease. In truth, it was nothing more than the bulb burning brightly before it went out.
Australia is staring down the barrel of a PS5 shortage that extends through a third Christmas, and I think we need to start talking about it now.
That conversation starts with a chat about the crisis currently engulfing the global supply chain.
Let’s go to the map screen
Shanghai, one of the busiest ports in the entire world, is currently in a bit of a state due to the region’s aggressive pursuit of its zero-COVID policy. The port of Shanghai is currently backed up for hundreds of kilometres in every direction. A quick look at a vessel tracker reveals the extent of the chaos.
Freighters are backed up into the Yellow Sea to the north and into the East China Sea to the south-east, with more arriving to join the stationary armada every day.
Here’s the situation north toward Beijing, which now finds itself poised on the edge of hard COVID restrictions of its own:
And here’s the situation south toward Taiwan and Guangzhou:
The entire coastline is jammed with ships, each loaded with containers, trying to find a port:
The backlog is so extreme that most supply chain experts are not expecting it to clear until next year at the earliest. ANU supply chain management expert David Leaney told 3AW radio that there were enough shipping containers caught in stasis around China to circle the equator four times. Where do you even start to solve a logistics problem on that scale?
What does this mean for Aussie gamers?
If you live in Australia, these giant clusters of ships unable to load or unload their cargo are why most of your online shopping is currently delayed. Things are even worse if you’re waiting on electronics. A global chip and superconductor shortage is affecting every part of the consumer electronics industry and is expected to drag on well into 2024. Superconductors are a vital component in constructing the devices we use every day: PCs, smartphones and tablets, cameras and, of course, video game consoles, all of which are affected.
This brings us to the ongoing PS5 shortage.
When the PlayStation 5 launched in November of 2020, the limited available supply after a year of global COVID restrictions created a kind of mania, but most thought ‘it’ll pass eventually’. We’re now over a year-and-a-half beyond the console’s launch and stock is still no easier to come by. In the intervening period, stock has been appearing in fits and spurts, with interested buyers following stock trackers, like Gizmodo Australia’s own stock drop alert page, or otherwise scattering chicken bones in an effort to divine when and where the next drop may appear. Genuine buyers find themselves up against an army of bots looking to scoop up the rare hardware for resale. Drops that last longer than a few minutes are few and far between, and those that secure hardware are usually found celebrating their good fortune on social media afterwards. It’s turned every drop into a kind of frantic lottery where thousands pile in and fewer than 50 winners emerge.
And that’s just when the stock finally arrives. Though Sony likes to assemble as much hardware as possible in its native Japan, a significant percentage of PS5 consoles are constructed in China to help hit shipment targets. This means that not only are completed consoles stuck in transit but so are the components used to construct new ones.
And it’s all currently floating out there in shipping containers, no good to anyone.
The chip shortage, combined with the logistical nightmare unfolding off the coast of China, paints a dim picture of what we can expect at retail for the rest of the year. We don’t want to think about it. We don’t want to acknowledge it. I think we were all really hoping it wouldn’t happen, but it now seems the writing is on the wall.
It’s going to be really fucking hard to get a PS5 in Australia for the third Christmas in a row.
Nobody is getting a PS5 for Christmas (again)
The very idea of a third or even fourth Christmas defined by console shortages is difficult to believe, but we need to start believing it.
If the shortage does indeed stretch on into 2024, it could mean that the PS5 spends half of its planned lifecycle out of stock, and not in the way that Sony would like. Two years into the lifecycle is when hardware usually undergoes a revision. Sony is still battling to get launch models on shelves, let alone think about what Version 2 looks like. How does it expect to ship PSVR2 units under these conditions? The mind boggles. If someone had told us this was on the cards in 2019, who would have believed them?
As we’ve mentioned before, despite our long-held catchcry of Don’t Preorder Games, the PS5 has become the major corollary. Preorders at retailers like EB Games, JB Hi-Fi or Amazon are currently the only way to guarantee you’ll secure a console without trying your luck during a drop. It’s now become a matter of patience, something rarely asked of us in modern capitalist society. We all just have to settle in and accept that our consoles will get here when they get here. And look, while many of us have already resigned ourselves to that, spare a thought for anyone working in games retail over the next year or more. As rough as it’s been for most of us, we also don’t have to go out there and face disappointed customers every day. There’s nothing they can do. Please cut them some slack.
God, what a mess.