Why the Actual F*ck You Can’t Buy a PS5 Anywhere

First things first. The phrase “What the actual f*ck?” is stuck in my head right now because I’m reading an advance copy of John Scalzi’s The Kaiju Preservation Society and the man is (as usual) a master of dialogue.

The book is awesome. Go buy it right now. I’ll wait here. 

Okay, back to business. Specifically, why it’s so hard to buy a PS5. 

Where CAN you buy a PS5?

I was pretty stoked when the PS5 was first announced. In fact, I was planning on buying one for Christmas. That, as it turned out, was a terrible plan.

Is this year any better? Yeah, not so much.

They’re sold out at Best Buy. They’re sold out on Amazon. (Feel free to check for yourself.) I even signed up to be a VIP at GameStop, to be the first to find out when they got a few in. I couldn’t get those either.

Ebay sometimes has a couple. Shop at your own risk. Walmart sometimes has a few through resellers too, but they’re over 1,000 effing dollars.

Yeah, that’s the same as $1,000, but I typed it out to get the “effing” in there. 

Because seriously.

What the actual f*ck?

Well, when I’m not indulging in my gaming addiction, or my science fiction addiction, I happen to write gripping articles for fintech companies on things like inflation. And global economics. So I know exactly why the actual f*ck you can’t buy a PS5.

And I’m going to tell you. One gamer to another.

What inflation has to do with buying a PS5

Why do I mention inflation? Because it happens to be a serious problem right now. Will it keep being a problem? Idk. Bigwigs at places like Intel and IBM seem to think so. At least for a while.

Even the Federal Reserve is starting to think like, yeah, maybe.

Inflation’s 3 times higher than normal and they’re saying, “Yeah, maybe.” 

I mean, not in those words. But that’s what they’re saying.

Still, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up for a second.

What the actual f*ck is inflation? (And why gamers should care.)

Inflation is just a fancy word for the fact that prices keep going up. As in, the United States used to have a half-cent piece—a half-penny, if you will. Minted from 1793 to 1857, it existed because prices were so low that we needed to cut a penny in half.

A full penny, by the way, was the size of a half-dollar

A lot’s changed since then.

Now, you might be thinking, “But wait. Prices don’t always go up. Deflation is a thing too.” And that’s true. Like during the Great Depression. And the Great Recession of 2007 and 2008.

But most of the time, historically anyway, prices go up. 

Now, that might sound bad, but when prices are all going down, it’s worse. Because that means the economy is tanking and everybody’s broke AF.

So as a general rule, inflation is better than deflation.

But we want, you know, SLOW inflation. Like a nice, steady 1% or 2%. 

Not FAST inflation. 

Fast inflation is (potentially) very, very bad. Skyrocketing prices make it a lot harder for people to pay for things. Like a PS5. Or those chips & dip for game night. Or an apartment to play in, for that matter.

Does that mean we should be worried? Meh, not necessarily. Before we start rolling up new RPG characters to play through real-life scenarios of an economic apocalypse, let’s dig into the numbers to see what’s really going on.

Pile of old Atari games with Dig Dug in the console

Why inflation is a problem (and why it isn’t) 

So, here’s the good news. The US inflation rate has been pretty stable since we came out of the Great Recession. For the past 10 years, it’s held steady at something like 2%.

Just where you want inflation to be.

But then COVID happened. And lockdowns.

Lockdowns meant the economy ground to a halt for a little while. People stopped traveling. They stopped commuting to work. They moved out of cities. 

Because of that stuff, the price of gas dropped. By, like, a lot. Prices for apartments dropped. Prices for hotel rooms and airfare dropped. 

Like, duh. This isn’t rocket science.

So here’s the important bit. The way we measure inflation is by comparing prices today to what they were a year ago. See where this is going?

Right. Inflation looks bad this year (something like 5% or higher, depending how you measure it) because people started traveling again. And driving to work—more than last year anyway. And moving back to urban areas. 

Prices went back up.

So that’s a big part of the whole inflation thing, which would suggest that the current inflation hike isn’t really a problem. I mean, the math is real, but it’s just a market adjustment, not a sign of things to come.

Still though, there’s another thing driving inflation that might not be so temporary. (Okay, more than one, but this is the interesting one where gamers are concerned.)

Bear with me because this is where the PS5 thing comes in.

The chip shortage, inflation, and your PS5

Here’s something you should know about me—I love tech. 

Like, so much. 

I love smart TVs with streaming apps and robots that can do Parkour. I love Twitter and TikTok and websites that let me connect with people around the world.

In fact, we all love tech. Some like it more than others, but still. We love video games. We love smartphones. We love computers and the internet.

We love banking apps and gaming apps. Apps that turn the lights on. Apps that answer any question, day or night. Apps that find our keys.

We love apps for everything.

Tons of app icons extending away into infinity

And that means there’s a booming demand for computer chips such as the world has never seen.

We want those gorgeous silicon chips in our ovens. In our blenders. In our toys. In our toothbrushes. The list is endless.

With the explosion of consumer demand for smart tech and edge tech and the internet of things, chip producers are having a hard time keeping up.

And that might be a problem for a while.

In fact, I lied earlier. Well, kind of. Those execs at Intel and IBM really said there’s going to be a chip shortage for another 2 years. They weren’t talking directly about inflation.

The thing is though, they kind of were. Because inflation and this chip shortage are related.

When there’s a shortage of things people want, they’re willing to pay more for them. That drives prices up.

Call it supply and demand. Call it inflation. Call it what you want. In the end, shortages lead to higher prices, at least until the market corrects itself.

That’s why prices for new cars are through the roof right now. And why we’re going to see some supply issues everywhere else too, at least for a while. 

Food factories are automated. Clothing factories are automated. Printing presses are automated. Until we have a ready supply of chips again, it’s going to be a problem.

Which is why you can’t buy a PS5 on Amazon. And why it’s over $1,000 at Walmart. At least right now, while I’m writing this article.

When will the market correct itself? And what does that mean?

Here’s the deal. Whenever there’s a shortage of something people want, entrepreneurs jump all over it. In fact, they’re the superheroes of the market economy. Righting wrongs. Solving problems. 

Superheroes

And making a nice profit for themselves along the way. Hey, good for them. They earned it.

Theoretically, we should see new chip makers popping up across the globe. Or people inventing new things that are just like chips, only better—faster, easier, and cheaper to make.

But that’s in theory. 

In practice, computer chips aren’t the kind of thing you can start building in your garage. (Although I did find this. Use it at your own risk: manufacturing semiconductors at home.)

Instead, existing chip makers are working their tails off to expand. Believe me, they want to grab all the market share they can get.

And that’s the most likely scenario to bring us new PS5s at a reasonable price. Chip production will grow to meet demand. 

That’s why it matters that companies like Intel are saying it might be a couple years.

They should know. They’re the ones trying desperately to keep up. (Okay, AMD makes the PS5 chip, but it’s an industry problem, not a company problem.)

In fact, I predict we’ll see more issues with consoles and other gaming equipment as things get worse before they get better.

A global chip shortage isn’t the kind of thing you solve at the flip of a switch. It’s the kind of problem that fluctuates over time. Demand will keep growing, and supply will experience lag time as it grows to catch up.

Kinda like lag in CoD. One minute things look okay, and the next you’re face-planting into a spawn point, yelling obscenities at your Wi-fi.

So here’s my advice. For the next couple years, buy it when you can get it. If you can get it. And when you can’t get it, find something else to do.

As for me, I’m playing Shop Titans. And reading Scalzi’s The Kaiju Preservation Society.

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