Sony is having a fairly successful launch of the PlayStation 5. Given the environment and the hardships 2020 brought us, January 2021 was still a record-breaking month for video game hardware sales. A collection of fantastic early launch titles have helped. It also has not hurt that most of the free world is boarded up at home. There is also the promise of bigger games to come. Unfortunately, Sony has been unable to meet the demand. Aggressive scalper bots have made things even more challenging for those hoping to secure a PS5 anytime soon. The PS5 shortages are also being exacerbated by significant component demand. This has left many to wonder, how long will this go on?
Every once and a while you will see someone on a forum or a podcast say something to the effect, “hopefully you will be able to walk into a store and get one this summer.” I see this thrown around a lot. While there is nothing wrong with optimism, these thoughts are completely unfounded on anything other than wishful thinking. Anyone hoping to acquire a PS5 this year should hope for the best. At the same time, it’s smart to plan for the worst.
A Massive Shortage Is Hitting the Semiconductor Industry
The CPU, GPU, and even storage chipsets require specialized proprietary hardware. Most of which are fairly new and unique to Sony. They all require silicon wafers or semiconductors to process data. Which (and unfortunately) for Sony are not unique and are in high demand. The major problem started in the Winter of 2019 when China was first hit with Covid-19. For anywhere between four to six months factories in China were shut down. This created a logjam of backed up manufacturing work. In a country that produced 4.5 million metric tons of silicon in 2019.
Very early on we felt that in minor ways here in the United States. The Nintendo Switch became hard to find. Zoom cameras were nearly impossible to buy this past spring. As well as the increasing costs of new devices. Those issues were really just related to the Covid-19 impact of assembling the devices. We had not yet really felt the impact related to silicon manufacturing. That is until fairly recently.
Globally, auto-manufacturers have reduced projected manufacturing numbers of cars due to shortages of the components required for their computers. Both Arm and AMD will be unable to meet the demand for their computer components in 2021. As well as Apple, which is also forecasting shortages this year. With Apple, the entire auto industry, plus the company that makes the hardware for the PS5 are on the waiting list alongside Sony. You have to wonder where Sony sits on the list when it comes to prioritizing fulfillment.
Demand Is Only Growing
A lot of what we do here is about keeping our ears to the ground across the industry. Something I hear a lot of, even by peers in the industry is that there is one game out there that will put them over the top in wanting a new console. I often hear, “Ratchet and Clank will be the first real big, new PS5 exclusive. That’s when I will have to get one.” It is not just Ratchet and Clank. The casual gamers that run out and buy every Resident Evil, Mass Effect, Final Fantasy, Battlefield, and Gran Turismo will all have a reason to make the jump this year. Sure, some of these are cross-gen games but, the 5 to 15 million fans that buy every game in these franchises are going to be highly motivated in 2021 to get the best experience. These are very dedicated fan bases.
We already know that demand for video game hardware is higher than it has ever been in the industry’s history. Americans are taking vacation money and spending it on enjoying things at home. Compounding that are tax returns and maybe one or two more stimulus checks in the United States going out during the first half of the year. The result is even more demand out there. So you have the 2020 carryovers and the new buyers competing with the scalpers. This should continue the shortage into the early summer, i.e. the time when the hopefuls believe things should stabilize. Let’s look at the release calendar around that time. I believe new game releases will carry the demand through the summer as more casual holdouts become enticed to buy a PS5.
Spring and Summer Major PS5 Releases
- March 3: Yakuza Like A Dragon
- March 12: Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time
- March TBD: Disco Elysium: The Final Cut
- April 1: Outriders
- April 20: MLB The Show 21
- April 30: Returnal
- May 7: Resident Evil Village
- May 14: Mass Effect: Legendary Edition
- May 21: Deathloop
- June 11: Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
- June 22: Back 4 Blood
- TBD: Far Cry 6
- TBD: Marvel’s Avengers
Right smack in the middle of that period where hopefuls believe the PS5 will become readily available, you have this collection of niche games with large fan bases hitting stores. I genuinely believe there will be a combined 5 to 10 million Resident Evil, MLB, and Mass Effect fans looking for new consoles this spring. I believe this will carry any sort of PS5 shortage well into July. Hopefully, by then we are all getting vaccinated and going on vacations. Silicon production has caught up, and Sony will begin to get consoles out faster.
The late summer will be the only opportunity for the PS5 shortage to end this year. Once the holiday shopping picks up in November, the PS5 is going to be the hot item all over again. It doesn’t matter how many they make, that will not change the holiday demand. Keeping in mind we are only talking about three months here where demand could be down (August through October). Look for games again to be driving demand. We will know a lot more once the summer announcement season comes (again driving up summer demand). We also can expect big holiday games like Battlefield and Call of Duty. Yet games like Gotham Knights, Horizon Forbidden West, Gran Turismo 7, Final Fantasy 16 still need release dates. Expect these to all fall here. Alongside Madden, NBA, NHL, and maybe even an College Football game.
Potential 2021 Pre-Holiday PS5 Releases
- Gran Turismo 7
- Gotham Knights
- Grand Theft Auto 5
- Final Fantasy 16
- Horizon Forbidden West
- GhostWire: Tokyo
- The Last of Us 2 Multiplayer/Story Expansion
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2
- Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Untitled Game
- Madden, NHL, FIFA 22
Not even counting what we don’t know yet, the late summer and early fall release calendar can look just as overcrowded as the late spring and early summer. This would bring a potential PS5 shortage right into the 2021 holiday season. It will most likely be as hard to get a PS5 this holiday as it was last holiday. There are some opportunities for things to improve, and some of these games that drive demand can get moved around but, plan for the worst. If you absolutely have to have a new console before Battlefield comes out this fall, plan on getting one this summer. If you have been waiting to get a PS5 for Ratchet and Clank don’t plan to get one in June, try to get one this spring. As there is good reason to believe that the PS5 shortage will last all year.