Eight months after release, it’s still extremely hard to get hold of a PS5. New stock sells out almost as quickly as it gets advertised, and the scarcity has led to some weird hijinks as companies try to capitalize on the hype. The latest one? Letting paid subscribers cut in line to order first.
Today GameStop emailed a new promotion to paid PowerUp Rewards members, announcing they would get first dibs on buying PS5s and high-end PC graphics cards from its latest limited stock. “To show our appreciation we’re opening Early Online Access for Pro members only to purchase a PlayStation 5 or PC Graphics Card today at 10:00am CST on gamestop.com,” it read. “This won’t guarantee you’ll get one of these products – quantities are extremely limited – but we wanted to help provide our best guests with a better opportunity to score one of these high-demand items.”
GameStop did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The promotion was first spotted by gaming tips maestro Wario64, so I went to check my inbox and indeed there it was because, full disclosure, I am a Rewards Pro subscriber and, consequently I guess, one of GameStop’s “best guests.” The Pro membership is $20 a year in exchange for earning points on purchases and monthly discount coupons. This new early access benefit is pitched as a nice gesture, but really it seems like a paid perk designed to boost the perceived value of the subscription.
Even with this head start, by 11:10 a.m. everything already seemed to be sold out. The cheapest PS5 bundle was $600, and required you also purchase, among other things, a $20 GameStop gift card. More expensive bundles packaged games like Rachet & Clank: Rift Apart. The GeForce RTX 3080 bundles forced you to buy other expensive stuff, like entire gaming monitors. Pushing big-ass bundles on people isn’t a new thing though. GameStop stores have done that for scarce Nintendo Switches in the past. Sometimes, the easiest way to get a PS5 or Xbox Series X is to go for a more expensive bundle at GameStop or other stores—it’s just not usually locked behind a subscription.
Following its unprecedented meme stock rally earlier this year, GameStop is currently undergoing a corporate transformation helmed by ex-Amazon executives as it tries to outrun the physical games media market crumbling around it. As Bloomberg tech columnist Tae Kim pointed out, this new promotion certainly seems like an Amazon Prime-y thing to do.
But it’s also just kind of shitty for all the people who have desperately been trying to get their hands on a PS5 and aren’t already tangled up in GameStop’s paid membership program. Buying one of the new consoles has been a clusterfuck since back before they were even released, and while more and more of them have been getting out into the wild, it’s still mostly a crap shoot. Some people might set up special news alerts and religiously watch their favorite deals channel, only for their online shopping basket to come up empty. Others, meanwhile, get their next-gen console by pure luck, just by virtue of being at the right place at the right time.
Lockdown boredom and international supply chain shortages have no doubt contributed to the next-gen shitshow, but it also feels like a lot of it could have been avoided if console manufacturers and stores had better systems in place. “I do think it’s going to push us to think about new models,” head of Xbox, Phil Spencer Still, told The Verge last year. “It could be, reserve your slot. It could be doing things more direct with the customer. Still could have the retailer fulfill the order, but just so people can have more clarity on when they can get a console. It’s something we’re working on.”
In the meantime, it looks like people will continue doing annoying internet scavenger hunts to nab a PS5 or Xbox Series X.