Why Are Graphics Cards, PS5s, and Xboxes So Expensive?

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By Ruben Circelli | More Articles Tech & Games Editor, Manager of Tech Section Longtime tech & games writer. Former Tencent gaming analyst.
September 07, 2021  01:44 PM

If you’ve tried to make an electronics purchase in the last year or two, especially if you want a next-gen console or a new GPU, you’ve probably been shocked by prices and availability. If you can even find somebody to sell you what you want, chances are they’ll charge so much it isn’t even worth it. In this article, we’ll explain why pricing has become so strange in recent memory.

Every time a new console or GPU comes out, availability is tight. It can be tough for weeks or even months after launch to find one, but console and GPU releases today are not the norm. This is because of a few different reasons, though the most important thing to keep in mind is how popular video games are today.

There are many more gamers now than there were during the PS3/Xbox 360 generation, and there will likely be many more gamers out there over the course of the PS5/Xbox Series X generation than there were during the PS4/Xbox One generation. This means that every time a new product launches, more people will be interested in it.

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Though, manufacturers are making more and more products available at launch. For example, both the PS5 and the Xbox Series X launched with more units for sale than any console in either company’s past. However, this has not made these products any easier to come by.

In part, this can be explained by the Coronavirus. Not only are there more gamers, but most people have more time to spend gaming. Plus, while for many their economic situation has become strained, many others have found that staying inside and not spending as much going out frees up some expendable income. So, many who don’t usually buy consoles or GPUs at launch have since done that.

Circling above all of this are chip shortages plaguing the entire world’s technology sector. This is an enormously complicated issue, but in short, Covid and massively increased demand have conspired to make manufacturers across the globe struggle to acquire the components they need to make new products.

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As you might expect, even missing a single tiny piece of the microchip puzzle can be devastating, because a piece of technology can’t just ship without every required component. As a result, many manufacturers are forecasting shortages impacting their supply chains until at least 2022 and even into 2023.

All of the above factors play into another controversial factor: scalping. Since consoles and GPUs are in such high demand and are in such a low supply, they’re extremely lucrative candidates for third-party resellers. Scalpers will often code bots and backend ways to quickly snipe orders and pre-orders immediately as they go live, and then they will list these products for what is often two, three, four, or even five times the MSRP of a particular product.

What’s worse is that many people are willing to buy these products at these prices because of the Coronavirus, a need to relax at home, and by having extra expendable income saved by not going out as much, so scalpers are not slowing down. With each new wave of PS5s or Xboxes or RTX GPUs hitting retailers, scalpers assemble and take lots of them off the market. This is a much-maligned practice for obvious reasons, but many scalpers themselves have also been hit hard by the Coronavirus, turning to reselling to make back the money lost by losing jobs or having to work less.

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In short, prices and availability of tech products from cell phones to gaming consoles to computers to cars and everything in between is not likely to improve in the short term. Though it will improve eventually, many aren’t interested in waiting years to play the games they want to play, so they turn to scalpers and the cycle continues

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