The latest generations of Xbox and Playstation consoles came out over a year ago, but actually getting your hands on one continues to be a pretty tall order. It seems like re-stocks for the Xbox Series X, the Playstation 5, and even the lower-powered Xbox Series S sell out within minutes and the only units I've seen in recent memory are all sold by scalpers at a hefty markup (f--k you guys, btw).
F--k scalpers. All my homies hate scalpers, even Mr. Rogers. via GIPHY
Between scalpers (again, f--k you), a chip shortage that's led to global disruptions in tech manufacturing, and a pandemic that threw supply lines completely out of whack, it could still be a solid minute until we get to just pick one up at our local store.
Where to Buy:
This is the easiest part - think all your favorite big box stores like Best Buy, GameStop, Walmart, etc. as well as buying straight from Microsoft or Sony. The real trick isn't the where - it's the when.
When to Buy:
Now that we've answered the easy part, we need to get to the real meat and potatoes of your console-capturing strategy. Any fool can go to the Walmart website and refresh it every 15 minutes. What you need is the advantage of information so you can get the timing right.
Stock Alert Sites:
There is possibly no other tool that will be more valuable to you in your search for that new Xbox or Playstation than a stock alert site. These are exactly what they say they are: websites designed with the sole purpose of alerting you to re-stocks at your favorite stores. Not only can you set up automated trackers for what you're looking for, the comments sections can also be a treasure trove of information - particularly at the local level.
Popular stock alert websites include:
Additionally, CNET has an awesome guide on how to set up a personal bot that can be a serious help in this endeavor.
If you love Discord, you can also find several servers that are dedicated to helping people track stocks and work basically the same way as the sites mentioned above in giving you fast alerts to help you one-up the competition.
Servers each have their individual rules and settings on how to set things up to get the alerts you like, so be sure to read up on that to make the most out of your experience.
Popular stock alert Discord servers include:
Aside from Discord, there are also communities on other platforms like Twitter dedicated to the same overall goal. The point is, make sure you're well-informed.
How to Buy:
Ok, we've covered the where and the when. You might be wondering "Do I really need tips on HOW to shop online? I put my card in and buy the thing, duh."
Oh, my sweet summer child. I wish it were that easy. Proper planning prevents poor performance, didn't you know? What you need to do now is to prepare yourself for the moment it's 'go time.'
This includes things like figuring out WHICH site you're most likely to buy on (hint, it SHOULD be the ones you set alerts for). Pick your retailer and then get in there and lay the groundwork for as painless a transaction as possible. Create a user account, see if you can set up site cookies to stay logged on, put in all your relevant information like your name/address, and make sure it's ACCURATE. If you're cool with it and generally trust the site you're on, submit payment information too so that you aren't fumbling around filling that out later.
All of this is to ensure that when that glorious "Back in Stock" alert finally comes through, you'll be able to check out in as little time as humanly possible, minimizing your chances of being shut out of the inevitable mad dash (which, sadly, includes many scalpers and re-sellers as well - again, we invite all scalpers to go f--k themselves with a stinging nettle).
I said what I said.
This is all to say that we still can't guarantee success. You never know when site servers might groan and crack under the stress of increased traffic, you might get unexpected logouts or verifications to put in, your own internet service might coincidentally crap out, etc. That's why it's good to prep as much as you can beforehand so that at least you've got everything you CAN control ready to go.
Hopefully, these tips can help you snag a sweet gift for yourself or a loved one. If they do, we'd certainly love to hear about it, and if they don't then just be patient - as long as you're prepared for it, your day will come.