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PlayStations are hot with consoles drawing rare shopping crowds

Carolina Gonzalez and Richard Clough
Bloomberg

Good luck finding a PlayStation 5.

The newest video-game console from Sony Corp., alongside rival Microsoft Corp.’s updated Xbox, were arguably the hottest items this Black Friday as shoppers lined up in person or swarmed retailers’ websites hoping to snag one.

GameStop Corp., one of the few retailers to do a brick-and-mortar release, saw shoppers line up as early as Wednesday — some even set up tents — at locations from Norfolk, Virginia, to Salinas, California.

Ben Hoban, 17, of Clarks Summit, Pa., carries his new Sony PlayStation 5 video game console out of a GameStop store on Black Friday,  in Dickson City, Pa.  Friday, Nov. 27, 2020.

“There’s always an item, or a few items, people can’t find. The big hot item this year is Sony PlayStation 5 and Xbox from Microsoft,” Joseph Feldman, senior managing director and assistant director of research at Telsey Advisory Group, said in a Friday morning interview on Bloomberg Surveillance. “Those are the two new items that I keep hearing people ask for, especially at Best Buy and GameStop, and you just can’t find them right now.”

A highly coveted product is just what retailers need this holiday season. After a brutal year of economic lockdowns and retail distress, stores are hoping that pent-up demand can rejuvenate the industry even as new waves of COVID-19 sweep across the country. Health concerns notwithstanding, a big-selling item can draw shoppers who may end up buying other gifts, too, while browsing in-store or online.

To limit crowds, Best Buy chose to only release the newest consoles on its website, a decision that retail analyst Neil Saunders called “a miss,” given the soaring demand for the products.

“Best Buy could have done something creative with outside collection to manage the crowds,” he said.

Google searches for gaming products were up again this week, according to a note from Baird Equity Research. Interest for “World of Warcraft” was up 96% after the launch of its latest expansion pack, while “FIFA Ultimate Team” was up 43% this week. The term “gaming headset” also saw a consistent increase in internet searches, up 24% week over week.

With all the interest in gaming, the new consoles are sure to draw crowds wherever they release. But there’s one reliable way to get your hands on them without lining up — pay resale. The consoles, which retail around $400 to $500 apiece, are selling for more than $1,000 on eBay.