Are gaming companies profiting from supply shortages?

Sony and Microsoft have dominated the gaming industry for decades, thanks to their respective games consoles, the PlayStation and Xbox.

Despite severe manufacturing disruption due to Covid-19, both companies still released new consoles in November 2020, as scheduled. But, much like the year 2020, the launch of Sony’s PlayStation 5 (PS5) and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X, was unusual. Limited console inventory has made it difficult for customers to acquire them, and less profitable for companies to offer discounts.

The disappearance of the console bundle

Data analysis conducted by reveals that both Sony and Microsoft have significantly reduced their bundle releases with the launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X.

Gaming companies usually serve bundles and special edition consoles in the first few years after a new release. A bundle will typically sell for the recommended retail price (RRP) of the standalone console, meaning that customers get a game, or two, for free. A PS5 disc console retails for £449.99, so bundles are a welcomed opportunity for gamers to save some money.

In November 2013, Sony released its previous generation PlayStation, the PS4, and Microsoft launched the Xbox One. In the two years after their release, the manufacturers released a combined total of 27 bundles for these consoles. The PS4 had seven official bundles in 2014 alone, and the Xbox One had four in the same year. Both consoles also had limited edition versions within the first year of their release. These were the Destiny PS4, and the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Xbox One.

In comparison, there have only been three official PS5 and Xbox Series X bundles in the two years since their release. This is an 89{d5557a0f812d3815fadb88a0a0ed3ac1bf2ba727e1040a819b6bcdc5b1f7d28e} decrease compared to the previous consoles. We’re also yet to see a special edition console for the PS5. Fewer official bundle options means that customers are paying top dollar just to get their hands on a console.

In January 2022, it was reported that both companies had taken a more direct sales approach to their latest releases. Sony opted to send purchase links for the PS5 to gamer accounts that actively play, to cut out resellers. More interestingly, Microsoft emailed some of its customers directly to offer the Xbox Series X as a “bundle”. The company offered limited stock of bundles, which were available on a first come, first served basis. However, customers had to swallow the additional cost of buying a game and an extra controller as well.

Some retailers have curated their own bundles by pairing consoles with accessories, such as additional controllers and headphones. However, these bundles don’t offer much in savings to customers. The limited availability of consoles as standalone items means that customers are forced to buy accessories they may not want.

Ongoing global chip shortages have caused production cuts

The current supply pinch isn’t unique to Sony and Microsoft. The tech industry is nearing its breaking point as companies grapple with the global semiconductor shortage.

Millions of products, from cars to washing machines, run on computer chips. Surging demand for electronics during the pandemic, coupled with factory shutdowns and delayed shipments, have made it near impossible for chip suppliers to meet demand. Political conflicts, including President Trump’s trade war with China, have also exacerbated supply pressures.

But the short chip supply is about much more than consumers wanting new smartphones. There are notably fewer chip suppliers than there were two decades ago, despite the increasing computerisation of everyday products, including white goods and smart home devices. Companies outside of the tech industry are feeling the impact as well, but consumers are bearing the brunt of higher product costs and fewer options.

Phil Jones of, says: “Microsoft and Sony are benefiting from the stock shortage. While customers are still happy to pay whatever they need to in order to secure the console, the manufacturer will continue taking advantage of them.

For the foreseeable future, if a consumer wants to purchase a PS5 or Xbox Series X new, they will have no option but to buy it as part of a bundle at an unnecessarily high price.”