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PS5 restocks don’t have to be a disaster — here’s how to fix them

PS5
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

This week saw another disastrous PS5 restock, courtesy of Walmart. It’s not the first time that a retailer has dropped stock of the in-demand console and the end result has been thousands of frustrated gamers venting on social media. It won’t be the last either. 

However, it doesn’t have to be this way. The words PS5 restock don’t have to result in sleepless nights for anyone still struggling to buy a next-gen console. There are better ways for retailers to handle dolling out the meager allocation of stock they receive every few weeks. 

Before we explain how we’d fix the restock situation, it is worth pointing out that retailers are in a tricky spot here. In an ideal world, retailers would love to be able to fill the overwhelming demand for the system. Don't forget, they want to take your money just as much as you want to give to them. Sometimes we need to cut the people working at these company’s a little slack, abusing workers in-store or on social media is a cowardly move. Don't do it. 

Sony likewise would love to meet the huge demand for the console. It wants as many PS5 in as many homes as possible. The company claims to be doing everything it can to be “ramping up” production, though with the ongoing global chip shortage it does seem likely that the stock shortages may last into 2022

Nevertheless, the way most retailers handle stock drops by picking a set time and date to drop whatever allocation it currently has and then slowly building stock to do it again is hugely inefficient and creates so many avoidable problems. Here’s what we’d do instead. 

Take a leaf out of Sony’s book

PS5

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Did you know that Sony sells the PS5 directly through its appropriately named Sony Direct website? Well as far as PS5 restocks go, it’s one of the better retailers out there thanks to its use of a virtual queue system. 

Retailers like Target, Walmart, and Best Buy simply drop stock with little, or usually no, warning. This approach always leads to serious traffic overload as thousands of users swarm the retailer’s listings in an attempt to buy a console. Error messages and website crashes typically follow. 

Sony Direct instead uses a virtual queue system. It gives out a time for its next restock (usually announced a day or two before the drop) and then opens the queue a short while before taking orders. When the restock begins instead of the floodgates opening and everyone trying to purchase at the same time, the available stock is handed out in an orderly fashion to users in the queue. 

This prevents the Sony Direct listing page from crashing under the strain of thousands of people trying to checkout with a PS5 at once, and while it’s far from a flawless system (earlier this week a queue was created which lead to zero stock in the end), it’s significantly better than the approach taken by most other retailers. We’d love to see this become the universal approach. 

It’s basically a lottery already 

Right now managing to buy a PS5 is basically luck of the draw, so why not turn it into an actual lottery? Sure there are numerous tips you can learn that will certainly help give you an advantage, but right now winning the PS5 restock game requires a quite significant slice of good fortune. 

PS5

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Multiple UK retailers have taken to utilizing a ballot system to fairly distribute stock. The concept is pretty simple. You register your details, successful entrants are chosen at random, and then given the chance to purchase a console without hassle. If they don’t buy a console within a set period (normally 48 hours), the opportunity is passed on to someone else who entered the draw.  

Retailers like Currys PC World have done this with its PS5 Priority Pass and Box held a ballot for its recent Xbox Series X restocks. In fact, one of the team here at Tom’s Guide even managed to buy a PS5 this week without fuss after being selected by one of these lottery systems. 

Granted, in these ballots there are always more entrants than there is stock, but that’s true of basically every restock at the minute. The supply of the PS5 can't match demand. At least with a lottery system, you don’t waste half your morning endlessly refreshing a retail listing only to come away empty-handed. 

These lottery systems respect your time and don’t force you to put your life on hold so you can drop everything at a moment’s notice the minute you get a stock alert on your phone. 

How to win the PS5 restock game for now 

While we’d love to see more retailers make use of a virtual queue or a ballot system, for now at least it seems that the status quo will still be random drops that sell out in minutes. That means if you want to buy a PS5, you need to be alert. 

Thankfully we can handle the hard work for you, keep our PS5 restock hub bookmarked and we’ll flag the latest stock information the minute we get it. We can’t guarantee it’ll get you a PS5, but it’ll certainly make the seemingly thankless task a little easier. 

Rory is a staff writer at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics including tech news, deals, gaming, streaming and more. When he’s not writing hot takes on the latest gaming hardware and streaming shows, he can be found watching a borderline unhealthy amount of movies and being thoroughly disappointed by his terrible football team.