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Why Finding an Xbox Is So Hard 2021

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Key Takeaways

Microsoft says that shortages of its latest Xbox consoles may last until June. Part of the problem is that scalpers are snapping up whatever stock they can get for resale. If you're resigned to paying a bit more than retail, the best way to get a new Xbox is to check the website StockX regularly, one observer said. Ian Gavan / Getty Images

Don't plan on getting your hands on an Xbox Series X or Series S console until June, Microsoft warns. 

Supply of the new consoles will be short for months, the company's head of investor relations, Mike Spencer, told The New York Times recently. The problem is a lack of chips necessary for manufacturing the units. It's not helping users that scalpers and bots are snapping up whatever stock they can get for resale. 

"One of the main reasons there's an Xbox shortage is because of bot scalpers hoarding stock from November and December," gaming writer Devin Pickell said in an email interview. 

"If you're not aware of bot scalping, it's basically a software program that monitors retail sites like Walmart, Best Buy, and Amazon. When new console stock hits those websites, the bot adds it to the cart and pays within microseconds—much faster than what is humanly capable."

Things have gotten so desperate for bored gamers that some lawmakers are calling to ban the practice of scalping consoles in the UK. 

But one data engineer analyzed resale data and found that scalpers aren't who you might think they are. Michael Driscoll writes on his blog that up to 45% of all the Xbox sales are individual sellers.

Kamil S / Unsplash

Driscoll suggests it could be that scalpers are making secondary accounts to keep from being discovered, but that doesn't seem to line up with the sales numbers. Instead, he believes a number of people were able to get a console, but realized selling it was more lucrative than keeping it.

The Chips Are Down

Another reason for the short supply of consoles is a lag in manufacturing enough chips. Both Sony and Microsoft get custom-made CPUs and GPUs by AMD for their consoles, Aamir Irshad, the founder of PC Builderz, said in an email interview. 

"In turn, AMD has outsourced the production of its silicon wafers to the Taiwanese manufacturer, TSMC," he said. "TSMC is experiencing supply shortages due to a variety of reasons, including the COVID-19 pandemic."

Another reason consoles are hard to score is higher-than-expected demand. Spencer told The New York Times that Microsoft had sold every console it's manufactured. And demand is coming from unexpected sources, some say. 

"Your best bet on getting these new Xboxes right now would be physical stores."

"Since graphics cards and CPUs are out of stock (or available at highly-inflated prices) these days, many PC gamers are buying these new consoles as well," Irshad said. "This extra demand is making the shortage look worse than it should be."

Game consoles aren't the only items affected by chip shortages. Automakers also are feeling the pinch, since modern automobiles use chips in everything from power steering and brake sensors to parking cameras.

Ford, Toyota, Fiat, and Nissan recently said that they would cut vehicle production this month due to a shortage of semiconductors. 

Think Different If You Want an Xbox Now

To get your hands on a console anytime soon, Irshad recommends avoiding online retailers. "Your best bet on getting these new Xboxes right now would be physical stores, as the online ordering system can be easily manipulated," he said. 

If you're resigned to paying a bit more than retail, the best way to get a new Xbox is to check the website StockX regularly, Pickell said. 

Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

"That's how I got mine at only $100 more than resale value," he added.

"It is dubbed the 'stock market of things.' There, you can negotiate pricing for your new console and monitor pricing charts to see when an item is hot versus cold. StockX verifies each purchase and handles the process with ease. I recommend this over eBay or other sites where the person selling you the console has minimal liability."