Microsoft has a new console purchase pilot program designed to help give Xbox One owners hoping to upgrade to an Xbox Series X or S a fighting chance. It is a program that should have been introduced some time ago and indicates that the nightmare of scarcity is far from over.
Make no mistake: it’s a smart program. It encourages current Xbox fans to stay in the ecosystem by giving them direct access to the latest consoles. It helps them avoid the headaches of browsing retailer pages and praying that they beat the scalpers in the fist. But smart or not, the program’s arrival in mid-May 2021 says a lot about Microsoft’s predictions for the future.
A full unit sale seven months after product availability would be unheard of in a normal console generation. The Xbox One and Xbox 360 have never had to worry about a situation like this. But thanks to the pandemic and associated production limitations, the growth of gaming as a global business in general, and the global focus on home entertainment, the Xbox Series X and S remain rare products over six months after their debut.
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You might have thought that the shortages would start to disappear soon. After all, we’re talking about two machines that still have zero – yes, zero – exclusive AAA games. Early adopters and people who are really, really excited about something mundane like SSDs would explain why the X and S were depleted at launch, but now things would surely start to calm down, right? Wrong.
Microsoft’s launch of the console purchase pilot indicates the company expects the shortages to continue for the indefinite future. The pilot’s phased rollout, exclusive to the US and reserved for Xbox insiders at the moment, means Microsoft expects the shortages to last long enough that a slow rollout is not only viable, but optimal.
We’re talking about more months of shortages here, at a minimum. And as we move into the second half of 2021, the holiday season will only exacerbate the problems. Does Microsoft foresee problems until 2022? And 2023?
The only thing that is certain is that Microsoft should have put in place a program like this much earlier to try and cut knee scalps before they take control of the market. And the fact that the tech giant still thinks this is a relevant program to implement seven months after launch should make you wonder how long the nightmare should go on.