Xbox boss says console shortages will persist until next year

Mike Wheatley

Anyone hoping to get their hands on a Microsoft Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S console in the run-up to Christmas is likely to be sorely disappointed, as the company has admitted it expects supply problems to persist until next year at least.


In an interview with TheWrap, Microsoft’s Xbox gaming division chief Phil Spencer made it clear the supply chain issues that have led to a worldwide shortage of Xbox consoles will not be resolved anytime soon. He said it’s a complex problem and that the company has more than just a lack of computer chips to worry about.

“It’s probably too isolated to talk about it as just a chip problem,” Spencer said. “When I think about it, what does it mean to get the parts necessary to build a console today and the get it to the markets where demand is, there are multiple pinch points in that process.”

The bottom line, unfortunately, is it will likely take Microsoft “months and months” to deal with all of the issues, he said.

The global semiconductor shortage has been well documented. It all began with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic last year that caused massive upheaval throughout supply chains, as factories temporarily shut up shop and logistics were disrupted. Then, with people forced to spend more time at home, consumer demand for electronics spiked at just the wrong time, when supplies were low, causing a massive backlog that’s yet to be resolved.

It’s not only consoles that are in scarce supply, but some new laptops and smartphones such as the iPhone 13, as well as cars. More recently, analysts have warned that new televisions could also be in short supply in 2022, if the problems aren't resolved. Most TV manufacturers have avoided the problem as they had stockpiles of chips to fall back on, but the worry is those supplies will soon be exhausted.

Spencer pointed out the supply chain problems have affected the whole world and said he’s disappointed that thousands of consumers have been unable to get their hands on the next-generation games consoles they’re desperately waiting for. Video games fans have been eagerly anticipating the Xbox Series X and Series S consoles, which come with advanced features such as low-lag gameplay and Dolby Vision graphics.

“People really want this new generation of consoles – they’re good consoles, both from us and other platform holders,” Spencer said, in a surprising nod to the quality of rival Sony’s PlayStation 5, even if he didn’t mention that console by name.

“People want the new functionality,” he continued. “We’re working hard to bring them to market but it’s going to be a challenge that we’ll have to work through for quite a while.”

Computer chipmakers have voiced similar warnings. Toshiba, which makes memory chips, or RAM, recently said it doesn’t expect to be able to resolve shortages for at least the next 12 months.

“The supply of chips will remain very tight until at least September next year, and in some cases, we may find customers not being fully served until 2023,” a Toshiba executive told Bloomberg last month.