The numbers are in, and they confirm what you probably suspected: No one can find PS5 restock or Xbox Series X restock. According to The NPD Group, a market research firm that analyzes video game and hardware sales (among other things), consumer spending on consoles is down 38% compared to a year ago. And the reason why is extremely simple: Consumers can’t spend money on gear they can’t find.
“November hardware spending fell to its lowest level since November 2016 … driven by a lack of available console inventory,” said NPD analyst Mat Piscatella, in a long and enlightening Twitter thread.
US NPD 13 Month Trend - Hardware dollar sales fell 38% compared to a year ago, leading the market to an overall 10% decline YoY. All categories of spending decreased when compared to November 2020. pic.twitter.com/viOvasLdt4December 13, 2021
The thread contains a lot of interesting information, including how well the new Call of Duty and Forza games sold. (Spoilers: Very well.) But Piscatella comes to the same conclusion that Tom’s Guide did a few weeks ago: If you want a new console this holiday, it’s going to be either the Xbox Series S, the Nintendo Switch or Nintendo Switch OLED. In fact, the Switch was the best-selling console both last month and in 2021 in general, due almost entirely to the fact that people can find it easily.
There’s not much point in finger-wagging at Microsoft or Sony. The companies are producing PS5 and Xbox Series X hardware as fast as they can, and they’ve both been up-front about how console production might get even worse before it gets better. Retailers have also made few effective efforts to fight off scalpers, meaning that the U.S. government might have to step in before the situation improves.
No Xbox Series X? Try Xbox Game Pass
If you want to play next-gen games without a next-gen console, however, there is one alternative: Xbox Game Pass. We’ve discussed Xbox Game Pass before in great detail: pay a monthly subscription fee, access a few hundred games for download or streaming, carry your saves over between platforms, etc. One thing that’s worth remembering about Xbox Game Pass, however, is that it works on non-gaming PCs.
I went hands-on with Xbox Cloud Gaming on PC when the service launched in May. It worked well then, and it’s only gotten better since. If you pay $15 per month for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you can stream some of the best Xbox Series X games via Web browser, and all you need to provide is a strong Internet connection and a controller. You can also play via Android or iOS, although the iOS functionality isn't as strong.
Some of these titles are heavy hitters, including Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, Hades, MLB The Show 21, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, Psychonauts 2, Sea of Thieves and more. From Xbox exclusives, to indie fare, to backwards-compatible Xbox 360 and original Xbox games, there are quite a few titles available, and they all run pretty well.
Granted, Xbox Cloud Gaming has limitations, especially since it’s still technically in beta. You’re going to get some lag and stuttering now and then, regardless of how strong your connection is, and you can’t play in 4K or at 120 frames per second, as you could on an Xbox Series X, or on one of the best gaming PCs. But on the bright side, because Xbox Game Pass carries over your save data, you’ll be able to pick up where you left off when you finally get a Series X.
I don’t know what to expect from Xbox Series X restocks, save that the situation is going to improve much more slowly than console-hunters might like. But the data suggests that console availability is trending in the wrong direction. You can drive yourself crazy trying to find a device, or you can play a lot of the same games via Game Pass. It’s up to you, but I’d personally rather spend that time actually playing games.
If you want to play the best PS5 games, on the other hand, you’re pretty much out of luck. At least until Sony launches its own Xbox Game Pass alternative with its rumored Project Spartacus, which would combine PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now.