PS5 restock in 2021 has good and bad news says PlayStation chief

Sony's PlayStation chief has promised greater supplies of the PS5 as the year progresses, though gamers hoping to skip restock hell and reseller price gouging may still find themselves disappointed by the end of 2021. Shortages of the PlayStation 5 have proved to be a bigger deal than the console itself, as despite 4.5 million sales of the console in the last two months of 2020, demand still outstrips supply.

As Microsoft has discovered with its own Xbox Series X supply chain issues, Sony's challenge is the unexpected constraints of the semiconductor industry. The console-maker finds itself competing with customers looking for smartphone chips, silicon for automotive applications, and more, as the pandemic-pinched industry struggles to keep up.

The result has been a drip of console supplies where gamers would've preferred a gush. Restocks have been haphazard, with individual retailers trying to balance their supplies through various methods from lotteries to virtual waiting lists, but the only consistency seems to be the scalpers and bots. For the moment, according to Jim Ryan, president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, that's going to improve but not be fixed for some time to come.

The good news is that "it will get better every month throughout 2021," Ryan told the FT. "The pace of the improvement in the supply chain will gather throughout the course of the year, so by the time we get to the second half of [2021], you're going to be seeing really decent numbers indeed."

The bad news, though, is that even with increases in production, supplies aren't expected to meet the needs of just how many people actually want to buy a PS5. Ryan couldn't guarantee that everyone who wants to pick up the next-gen console for the end-of-year holidays would be able to. "There are very few magic wands that can be waved," he conceded.

In the meantime, Sony is developing a new version of its PlayStation VR headset. Confirmed as a work-in-progress this morning, the new virtual reality system won't be ready for 2021, the company cautioned. That means those who want to use VR with their PS5 will have to stick with the original PlayStation VR, launched in 2016 for the PlayStation 4, and which works with the new console via an adapter.

Specifications for the new, PS5-specific version are still in short supply. However Sony has said that it will be a tethered system still – connecting to the console with a single cable for power and data – and boast improvements in resolution, field of view, and tracking. There'll also be advances in the VR controllers, the company has teased.