Trying to get your hands on a PlayStation 5 or one of Microsoft’s next-gen consoles—the Xbox Series X and the smaller, less-powerful Xbox Series S—remains a fool’s errand. Stock sells out as soon as it becomes available. When it pops up from unofficial retailers, it does so with a staggering markup.
The scarcity is driven by a bunch of factors: by bots, which scoop up consoles en masse automatically; by a chip production shortage that’s resulted in disruptions across industries; by a pandemic that upended the global supply line; by scalpers, who are just the fucking worst. Experts believe that typical buying conditions—in which you can pop into your nearest GameStop and pick a system up off the shelf—won’t be seen until the fall, at the very earliest.
So, yeah, it’s pretty rough out there for anyone hoping to hop on the next-gen express.
Read More: When Will You Be Able To Get A PS5?
But here’s the thing: If you’re wondering where to buy a PS5 or Xbox Series X/S, you’re asking the wrong question. That answer’s simple. (Ex: Target, Best Buy, Walmart, GameStop, direct buys from Sony and Microsoft—whatever.) Instead, you should wonder how to get one. The trick there is to learn how to pinpoint when consoles will become available, and act immediately. Of course, these tactics don’t guarantee you’ll get your hands on one. But they’ll help a lot more than refreshing Walmart’s website every six minutes.
Join stock alert sites.
Few services are more invaluable for tracking down a next-gen console than stock alert sites like HotStock.io, which do exactly what you’d imagine: alert you when stock is back up. NowInStock.net, for instance, offers helpful trackers for both the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5. But that’s not the only draw. NowInStock’s readership is often abuzz, with users regularly hopping into the comments section to trade info about product drops in specific regions and share success stories on how they’ve gone about securing next-gen consoles of their own. For once, yes, you should read the comments.
Join stock alert Discord servers.
If you’re on Discord, the right server is just as helpful—and fulfills just the same purpose—as a solid stock alert site. Servers like NerdSpeak, Stock Alert, Unobtainium, and Stock Drops are good places to check out.
Once you join a given server, you’ll usually get instructions on how to sign up for specific product alerts. Mostly it amounts to going into a certain channel and leaving a specific emoji under a certain message that lists all your options. Later, if you want to disable the alert for that product, just click the same emoji you left earlier to remove it.
Get on Twitter.
Twitter might be the worst website in the world, but some accounts can help you get next-gen consoles, so, hey, worth it. Few in that regard are more helpful than Wario64, who not only will alert followers to new stock but also offer hours-long lead times on when direct purchases—either through Sony’s PlayStation Direct or Microsoft’s Microsoft Store—will go live.
Prep the sites you expect to shop on.
So you signed up for alerts and got in a Discord or two. Great, but you’re not done yet. Before you kick back and wait for pop-ups to start rolling in, think about which sites you’ll be getting alerts for and go do everything you need to in order to make any eventual checkout process as quick and painless as possible.
Most often that means creating an account with that retailer. If you were expecting to get alerts for stock on Walmart.com, for example, it’d behoove you to create an account there and punch in as much info as possible, particularly your shipping address and billing info (save your credit card or other payment info there, provided you feel comfortable doing so). And if possible, set your web browser to preserve the site’s login cookies so you stay logged in between visits.
Now, when an alert comes in, you’ll be able to click the link, attempt to add the item to your cart, and (hopefully) check out with a bare minimum of further input. We say “hopefully” because lots of annoying crap can still go down when trying to check out on an ecommerce site under load, up to and including surprise CAPTCHAs, unplanned logouts, and all manner of other devilry. All you can do is make sure you’re as prepared as you can be going in, and roll with the rest.
Periodically scan for intel.
The majority of our advice involves setting up alerts so that information gets pushed to you. That saves you from a never-ending hell of scouring retail sites day after day in hopes of that one-in-a-thousand restock.
However, you can definitely get a leg up by paying attention to what your fellow hunters are saying on the stock sites and Discord servers you just joined. They’ll often share the very latest information on your particular quarry, such as when and where the next’s restock’s expected. Sometimes it’s bunk, but often you’ll glean legitimately valuable intel. You don’t have to become a forum gremlin yourself, but it can definitely pay to keep tabs on the discourse.
Be very, very patient.
Well, time to wait. Once you’re all set up, success can be contingent on being present at your computer or phone for hours-long stretches to jump on alerts within seconds (not minutes). If you’re able to hang out on your computer or phone for large chunks of the day you’ll be in a much better position to strike when an alert comes in. If not, hopefully you’ll be ready to capitalize next time.
But a lot of these popular items are just super hard to get these days. Even if you do everything reasonable to tip the scales in your favor, you could still come up short. Shopping for hard-to-get items can be real frustrating, and it’s your call as to whether the aggravations are worth the chance of eventual success.
It may help to keep in mind that countless other people hunting the same stuff—PS5s, RTX graphics cards, next-gen Xboxes—do eventually get what they’re looking for, as evidenced by the ecstatic messages they often leave on the stock-checking sites after the fact. The stars can align for you as well. You just need a little luck, and a lotta prep.
Of course, this entire endeavor is all quite a hassle, so you may also opt to play the super-long game and just wait until all these stock shortages resolve themselves, as they eventually will. This approach won’t get you a PS5 very quickly, but your cortisol levels and blood pressure might be better for it.
Additional reporting by Alexandra Hall