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Forget PS5 restocks: Here’s when you should buy this console

when to buy ps5
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The PS5 is almost impossible to find. That was the case during pre-orders; that was the case at launch; and I anticipate it’s going to be the case well into the new year. While stocks could stabilize as early as late January, there’s a good chance that we’ll have to wait a few more months before you can waltz into any electronics store and pick up Sony’s newest console.

The good news is that you don’t really need a PS5 right now, at least if you have a PS4, or a comparable gaming system. However, while I don’t recommend dropping everything for a PS5 just yet, the fact is that the PS4 is on the way out, and console gamers will have to update sooner or later. If now isn’t the right time to buy a PS5, when will it be? 

While everyone’s individual case will vary somewhat, we can try to pinpoint the “best” time to buy a PS5 based on three major factors: game selection, hardware and price. And, naturally, if you really, really want a PS5, then the best time to buy one is “as soon as you can find a restock.” 

Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart

(Image credit: Insomniac Games)

PS5 game selection: What’s coming when 

Everyone has a different threshold when it comes to “how many games make a system worthwhile?” For some people, one system-seller is enough (that system-seller is Demon’s Souls, incidentally); for others, a dozen exclusive titles may be the threshold, because why upgrade otherwise?

I don’t think there’s a right or wrong approach here, but I will say that my own rule of thumb is “three games that I can’t get on any other system.” Right now, the PS5 doesn’t meet that criterion. It has only two true exclusive titles — Astro’s Playroom and Demon’s Souls — and one of them technically came out on the PS3 more than a decade ago.

My own rule of thumb for buying a new console is that it needs “three games that I can’t get on any other system.” Right now, the PS5 doesn’t meet that criterion.

Looking out across the next few months, we’re scheduled to get Returnal, Deathloop and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart in the first half of 2021. We have more nebulous release dates for other exclusives, like God of War Ragnarok, Ghostwire: Tokyo and Final Fantasy XVI, but it’s at least possible that they could come out in 2021.

Then there’s also the issue of cross-gen games, like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Yakuza: Like a Dragon. While these games play just fine on the PS4, there’s a good chance that cross-gen games will start favoring the next-gen consoles sooner rather than later. We’ve already started to see this disparity with titles like Cyberpunk 2077, and the performance differences are likely to get even more noticeable as time goes on.

Based on the PS5 exclusives we have right now, as well as those we’re slated to get in the next few months, it seems like March 2021 would be the time to start seriously considering a purchase; by June, there should be no real reason to hold off.

PS5

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

PS5 bugs and issues 

One reason why I advise against buying consoles at launch is because of hardware issues. They’re not always present, but when they are, they’re often extremely hard to get fixed. Think back to the Xbox 360’s Red Ring of Death — or even more recently, to the spate of PS5s with unfixable rest mode issues.

Even if an issue doesn’t break your system, early console versions are often not optimized. Consider the Nintendo Switch’s meager battery life at launch, or the PS5’s considerable variance in fans and, consequently, fan noise.

These issues get ironed out over time, although it’s difficult to say exactly how long this could take — particularly since new hardware issues might crop up as the months advance. Remember: the Red Ring of Death issue didn’t get bad until almost two years after its initial release.

So, should you wait two full years before buying a PS5 — by which time there very well might be a smaller and/or cheaper redesign? Well, maybe — I’m no great fan of the PS5’s current appearance. But it’s also worth remembering that the Red Ring was an anomaly among game consoles, and these systems are usually pretty solid.

My recommendation would be to give it six months to see if any additional issues crop up, and see how Sony addresses those issues. While there’s nothing inherently instructive about this time frame, it’s at least long enough to gauge the system’s real-world performance and see if anything crops up. That would put the “ideal” time to buy a PS5 at May 2021 — right when its game library will be getting more robust.

PS5

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

PS5 price: Will it come down? 

If you’re delaying a PS5 purchase because you’re waiting for a price break, I have bad news: Consoles very rarely decrease in price during their first year on the market. Maybe if you hold out until next Christmas, you can get some kind of discounted bundle, but this would probably be a pack-in game or an extra controller — not a make-or-break price difference.

As such, the standard PS5 is very likely to stay at $500 in 2021, and the PS5 Digital Edition is likely to stay at $400. (It’s possible, of course, that the Digital Edition will prove to be much less popular than its disc-enabled counterpart, in which case Sony could discount the smaller device further. But at least for the moment, it’s impossible to keep either model in stock.)

While it’s a bit of a cop-out answer, it’s also true: The PS5’s price is unlikely to change in 2021, so it shouldn’t really factor into your decision one way or the other. If you want a more substantial price break, you’ll have to wait until 2022 or later.

PS5

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

When to buy PS5: Outlook

Since price isn’t an issue and game selection is largely down to personal taste, I would say that the earliest time to buy a PS5 is March 2021 — and you can wait until May or June if you really want to hit the ground running. Of course, you can try to find one sooner, but you may just drive yourself up a wall dealing with inconsistent restocks and greedy scalpers.

Alternatively, you can wait another year and see if the price drops. If 2022 rolls around and you still can’t find a PS5, something will have gone horribly wrong.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.