PS5 and Xbox Series X Pre-Orders Were An Exercise in Frustration and Excitement

PS5 and Xbox Series X Pre-Orders Were An Exercise in Frustration and Excitement

While the excitement was there for the launch of next-gen, things could have gone a lot smoother for the PS5 and Xbox Series X pre-orders.

The past week officially saw the beginning of the road to next-gen, as both Sony and Microsoft opened up pre-orders for the PS5, Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series S. Given the anticipated build-up over the past several months with Sony and Microsoft’s stand-off over the price and release dates of their systems, the excitement around the consoles’ launch was palpable over social media as the proverbial next-gen puzzle pieces fell into place.

Flashing forward one week later, however, and the pre-orders for the consoles themselves were an entirely different story. Following the conclusion of Sony’s PS5 Showcase last week, mixed messaging on pre-orders for the PS5 began appearing on Twitter from both Geoff Keighley and the official PlayStation accounts, which initially suggested that pre-orders would begin the following morning on Thursday, September 17.

However, that didn’t end up being the case, as retailers like Walmart and GameStop lifted the floodgates on PS5 pre-orders that very night, followed shortly after by others like Best Buy and Amazon. Within the span of minutes, most retailers pre-emptively sold out of their pre-order stock for the PS5 well before they were “officially” set to begin.

While Sony’s initial batch of pre-orders was a chaotic mess, Microsoft retaliated with a dig at Sony by sharing the exact date and time that pre-orders would be available for both the Xbox Series X and Series S, which would follow one week later. Though Microsoft had good intentions by being upfront about the availability of pre-orders, unsurprisingly the pre-orders for the Series X and Series S were a disaster in a different way. With pre-orders set for 8am PT/11am ET this past Tuesday, everyone had their eyes on the major retailers–Amazon, Best Buy, Walmart, GameStop, Target, and Microsoft’s official store–in a way that wouldn’t have looked that far off from a game of Fall Guys, as buyers rushed to the same storefronts en masse.

Almost immediately, pre-order stock for both the Series X and Series S ran into issues as the retailers’ websites were hammered by the influx of traffic at the same time from thousands of users trying to simultaneously complete their pre-orders, to varying success. For the entire time that I spent on Tuesday morning trying to secure a Series X pre-order, Microsoft’s website was completely down. At Walmart, I managed to get through to the checkout page before my system was seemingly yanked from my cart and unavailable as I was completing payment. GameStop had a dubious (at best) queue system that never loaded for me to the actual store page. Target’s pre-order buttons kept giving me a phantom Series X that would disappear and reappear from my cart, while Best Buy and Amazon didn’t launch their pre-orders until nearly an hour after other retailers were well out of stock. At the very least, Amazon had some cute error message dogs to keep everyone entertained while waiting.

For all intents and purposes, the pre-order process for both Sony and Microsoft’s new systems were an absolute shitshow, but that was probably to be expected. Given the anticipation and hype that has been building around these systems over the course of the year–especially in the year that is 2020–having the rush and excitement of being able to secure either (or both) of the consoles was cut short by the frustrating experience of actually being able to get the consoles. From my own experience, grabbing a PS5 from Walmart took quite a bit of effort and refreshing, though miraculously my pre-order for the Xbox Series X on Amazon went through without a hitch.

Whether it was on Sony, Microsoft, or the retailers, the pre-orders for the next-gen console were about as nightmarish a scenario as possible, and could paint a frustrating picture for the next few weeks before their November launch. Sony came out after the fact with a tweet admitting that the PS5 pre-order process was less than ideal and would have more systems available, while Microsoft implied that (hopefully) more stock for the systems will emerge both before and during launch for the Series X and Series S.

Specifically, aside from miscommunication and retail sites that weren’t prepared for the influx of traffic, there is no denying that the pre-orders for the consoles were likely a prime target for bots and scalpers. Even having a retailer login and 1-click checkout can’t compete with the speed and efficiency of a bot that manages to scrape retailer websites for the pre-orders as they go live, and it was only inevitable that system pre-orders would start appearing on reseller websites looking to capitalize on the new consoles. Listings on eBay for both the PS5 and Xbox Series X easily cleared over $1,000 as resellers looked to turn double the profits on the new systems, while others like StockX are already gearing up for resale listings (and inevitably, price gouging) of the consoles.

While there was the unavoidable factor that all of the major retailers were bound to get hit with a massive surge in demand for both systems, it’s hard not to look  at how pre-orders went for both the PS5 and Xbox Series X/Series S and come away frustrated. Combined with the similarly chaotic experience that PC users felt with the release of pre-orders for the GeForce RTX 3080, the past week was a difficult one for anyone that was looking to lock in a next-gen console or graphics card.

Everything else aside, I did manage to lock in pre-orders for both the PS5 Digital Edition and the Xbox Series X during the pre-order rush, so I’ll take that as a success for sure. However, I’ll fully admit that I’m keeping a watchful eye on my email inbox, dreading the email from Walmart or Amazon that there will (likely) be a delay for when the systems are delivered, or even worse, if the pre-orders fall through completely and are cancelled. As much as I’m looking forward to the launch of the next-gen consoles like many others, there’s no denying that the road to next-gen got off to a rocky start with the pre-order launch. Whether it’s implementing a ticketing system at retailers or more transparent communication on pre-order availability, Sony and Microsoft need to course-correct.