Since the console’s release, inventory has been low due to a number of factors, including an ongoing global semiconductor shortage. Severe weather such as the drought in Taiwan (the home of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, the largest chip factory in the world) greatly hampered chip production, since fabrication plants require several million gallons of specially treated ultrapure water per day. The covid-19 lockdowns prompted semiconductor foundries to shut down while consumer demand for electronic products skyrocketed.
These issues were also exacerbated by trade tensions between the United States and China. As tensions remain high, especially over Taiwan, both nations have been looking toward the future and investing heavily in chip self-sufficiency. The United States has pledged $52 billion to build more domestic semiconductor foundries. Several other governments, such as the European Union and India, have also enacted plans to strengthen local chip manufacturing.
As a result, virtually all electronic devices using microchips have become more expensive. In August, Sony announced price hikes for the PS5 in continental Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Mexico, China and Japan. The United States remains unaffected.
For game consoles such as the PS5, supply chain issues and lack of purchasing safeguards gave rise to a thriving cottage industry of machine-powered resellers who used bots to crawl vendors for PS5 drops and bought dozens of consoles at a time. The same issues also made the Nintendo Switch and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X consoles similarly scarce. Retailers have adopted more stringent buying protocols to guard against resellers after widespread backlash from consumers. During the peak of the reseller market in November 2020, the PS5 often sold for double its MSRP, for an average of $1000 per console. Last year, resell prices for the PS5 tanked by 30 percent despite the console still being in low supply.
Sony did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication regarding why the PS5′s availability may have changed.
Piers Harding-Rolls, a games industry analyst for research and analytics firm Ampere Analysis, told The Washington Post in an email that “Sony has been working hard to secure its PS5 component supply chain over 2022. It is now in a more comfortable position but it has also had to increase the price of the console. I expect some pricing pressure will have come as a result of expanding its supply chain relationships and negotiating new arrangements to secure key components during a time of increased inflation.”
Time will tell if it will actually become easier to find a PS5 in 2023, or whether North America will see the price increases imposed in other markets. Still, Ryan’s statements offer a hopeful sign for those still trying to get their hands on a PS5.