Chip shortage blamed for lack of PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles

Mike Wheatley

There’s bad news in store for anyone who has been struggling to get their hands on one of the new PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X consoles that were launched last year.


That’s because the global computer chip shortage, which has been cited as the main reason why Sony and Microsoft haven’t been able to ship enough consoles, is likely to drag on until next year.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the supply chain problems it has caused, combined with conservative production planning from chip makers, has led to a big scramble among electronics makers looking to secure processors. Demand for microchips is so high that it has outstripped supply, and the shortage has been felt keenly in industries ranging from cars to mobile phones and televisions.

Just this week, Samsung Electronics admitted that the chip shortage could impact its TV production plans. It reportedly has enough chips stockpiled for now, so a slowdown probably won’t be noticed until next year.

The situation has also had a negative impact on the launch of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Since the consoles went on sale at the end of last year, there just hasn't been enough available to go around, leading to a long wait for gamers eager to snap one up.

A report from Bloomberg this week said that both Microsoft and Sony have struggled to secure enough chips, as bigger firms that buy more components have been given priority by chip suppliers.

Bloomberg said that “smaller-volume buyers” of chips, including car makers and games console manufacturers, simply can’t make enough products to meet demand due to the lack of chips.

“Nintendo Co., Sony and Microsoft Corp. have struggled to make enough Switches, PlayStations and Xboxes for about a year,” Bloomberg reported “The game hardware industry is bracing for supply to get worse before it gets better in 2021, potentially even affecting the next holiday season,” Bloomberg said, citing anonymous sources.

The fears that supply issues could last until next year were stoked by Sony Interactive Entertainment Chief Executive Jim Ryan, who told the Financial Times this week that his company cannot guarantee its ability to make a sufficient number of consoles to meet demand for next Christmas.

In another interview with Nikkei, Ryan explained that Sony is working behind the scenes to try and boost production, but mentioned several problems it faces.

“Supply under the new coronavirus was very complicated, and we had to limit distribution to online,” Ryan explained. “The supply and demand for semiconductors is also tight worldwide. We are asking our suppliers to allow us to increase production, which will flow into the market this year."

Microsoft’s inability to secure enough chips for its Xbox Series X consoles is an even bigger surprise, considering how many processors run in Windows-powered laptops and PCs and its strong relationship with suppliers like Intel and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. The U.S. firm’s Investor Relations Chief Mike Spencer said in a February interview with the New York Times that it expects limited supply to continue until June 2021 at the very least.

The COVID-19 pandemic is also reported to be impacting game development as well as console production. Bloomberg said Microsoft had planned to launch its new Halo Infinite title at the same time as the Xbox Series X went on sale. However, it was delayed because the game’s developers have had to work remotely, rather than face-to-face, complicating their collaborative efforts, Microsoft has said.

Bloomberg said the pandemic has led to delays in several new titles for the PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch, and that many games slated for a 2021 release have now been postponed until next year.