If you were hoping to line up outside a big box store on November 12th or 19th to buy a PlayStation 5, you’re out of luck this year. Sony has announced that PlayStation 5 systems will only be available online.
The company writes:
No units will be available in-store for purchase on launch day (November 12 or November 19, depending on your region) – please don’t plan on camping out or lining up at your local retailer on launch day in hopes of finding a PS5 console for purchase. Be safe, stay home, and place your order online.
Gamers who have pre-ordered for pick-up at their local retailer should still be able to do so at their designated appointment time, under the retailer’s safety protocols. Please confirm the details with your local retailer.
Objectively, this is probably the right call, as far as tamping down on the spread of the pandemic. Standing long hours in close quarters isn’t the best way to socially distance and in the United States, at least, COVID-19 cases and deaths are both heading upwards once again, with over 100,000 Americans diagnosed in a single day and deaths per day once again clearing 1K. Sony is clearly taking a cautious route to market here, emphasizing safety globally rather than attempting to maximize in-store sales. It’s the right call, from a public health perspective — but it is going to make it harder to buy a PlayStation 5.
The problem of bots has begun to get some attention in recent months after flying under the radar for years, but it’s not realistic to expect Sony’s worldwide distributor network to have implemented anti-bot protections in a matter of a few weeks. Even if some major sites have stepped up to the plate that quickly, the issue hasn’t received enough attention. There have also been rumors of low PlayStation 5 production for months, though in this case, “low” is relative — Sony’s supposed targets for PS5 production were still higher than any previous six-month ramp, and any adjustments the company has made may be strictly nominal.
It’s also difficult to forecast what demand for the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 will look like because they’re launching under such unusual circumstances. The pandemic has driven people indoors, which increases the chance that they’ll want to buy a gaming system of some sort. But COVID-19 has played hell with manufacturer shipping dates all year, and that’s before we talk about any yield or manufacturing issues that Microsoft and Sony might be encountering. That’s not to imply that either company has a specific problem, but every issue is going to be under a magnifying glass given the overall state of things.
The strangest thing about this generation of consoles is how it’s debuting without any next-generation games to really speak of. I’ve only had a week to spend with the Xbox Series X, but the games you can currently play on it are current-generation titles that don’t tap features like ray tracing. This, again, is thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it does make it a little odd to review a brand-new system in 2020.
If you want a PlayStation 5 this year, spamming refresh on your browser and keeping a constant eye on sites like NowInStock.net may be the best you can do. With no retail availability at all, it seems likely that bots will capture a higher percentage of the launch volume.
The other major piece of PlayStation-related news today is that the console’s M.2 slot won’t function at launch. This isn’t necessarily a surprise, since PS5 guru and hardware architect Mark Cerny had implied storage might not be available until after launch, but if you’re budgeting for purchases, there’s little point to immediately buying an SSD. The Verge investigated the issue but found no evidence that Sony’s compatibility program has even started yet. In order to serve as expanded storage for the PlayStation 5, drives will need to hit specific performance levels and can’t have a heatsink too large to fit into the case. It is not clear how many current commercial drives will meet the PS5 standard, and we’ll obviously have to wait for the post-launch period to find out.
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