PS5 and Xbox restock isn't destined for Walmart 'Gamer Drop' – that may be a good thing
Walmart Gamer Drop is still a go, but it's not going to net you a PlayStation 5 console
The fabled PS5 restock at 131 different Walmart stores across the United States just wasn’t meant to be, despite multiple news reports that claimed the December 11 Walmart ‘Gamer Drop’ event would include a ‘massive’ restock.
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Some websites still have this news up, causing hundreds of my Twitter followers, all desperate to get a console by Christmas, to send me links while utterly confused in my Direct Messages: “but this website says…" and “you missed this” or, annoyingly, “YOU’RE LATE!”. The Xbox Series X restock and Nintendo Switch OLED restock aren’t destined to be in stores either, according to a Walmart statement today.
It’s become my job to set things straight. And get things right.
➡️ The Shortcut skinny
Tl;dr policy: I don’t bury the important info (like some sites) in case you don’t have time to read it all. Notice… I don’t have banner ads, so no need for me to artificially increase ‘dwell time’.
🙅♂️ Walmart’s in-store ‘Gamer Drop’ event won’t include a PS5, Xbox Series X or Switch OLED restock on Saturday, December 11
🎮 What is Gamer Drop then? You’ll be able to experience next-gen games and accessory demos as well as discounts at these select Walmart locations
💻 As far as I know, Walmart will continue to sell PS5 and Xbox online
🤕 No Walmart in-person restock is a good thing. Best Buy restocks of the Halo Xbox and GPU stock in certain cities have seen violence when these rare items are sold at MSRP. GameStop’s forced bundles don’t attract as much chaos
The initial news reports were believable. As a fan of in-person restock events where I get to do real on-the-ground reporting – rare these days – and meet gamers who are following me on Twitter, I wanted it to be true. But as a journalist, I resisted tweeting about it for the first 24 hours until I got confirmation 😅. I felt like I missed a whopper of a news story – “Walmart’s first in-person restock.”
Nope. The in-person restock is not happening, after all, says Walmart.
Before Walmart confirmed the console no-show, employee sources, who were seeing stories crop up, began messaging me on Twitter to say “Did you see this? We’ve heard nothing about it here” and “We have no stock coming to our stores.” It turns out they were right. YouTuber and fellow restock tracker Jake Randall actually went to a bunch of Walmart stores to do some digging and found the same empty answers.
It’s a good thing. In-store restocks at MSRP have proven to be a disaster
The grass isn’t always greener for in-store restock events compared to bot-filled online restocks, according to my prior reporting at TechRadar. GameStop and Best Buy started to do some in-person Xbox and PS5 restocks in July (for Xbox at GameStop) and September (for PS5 and Xbox at Best Buy, then PS5 for GameStop) – the only two retailers to try it among major American stores (not counting regional club-stores and random local Target Xbox Series X drops).
Best Buy restock events for graphics cards and the Halo Xbox in New York City have devolved into chaos, with people waiting up to 48 hours in outdoor lines and paper tickets having to be handed out by the NYPD because coordinated line cutters come close to blows – in a mess of a crowd completely filled with resellers trying to earn a $500 profit. In other parts of the US, fights have broken out.
It’s not pretty. If anyone at Best Buy corporate was actually on the scene, they’d be horrified. Instead, store employees, who have told me “I don’t get paid enough for this” have to deal with the situation, yet feel they have little power to remove line cutters (they can’t physically force them). That’s when the NYPD gets called.
GameStop gets in-store restocks right, even if it’s hated by a lot of people
GameStop forces console bundles during its in-store (and online) restocks, with the asking price of $750 on average. Everything is at face value for the bundle, which usually includes a $499 console, two games at $70 each, a $50 GameStop gift card and an online gaming membership valued at $60 (meaning either PlayStation Plus or Xbox Game Pass Ultimate). Consumers who just want the console hate this.
But you know who hates this even more? Resellers. It’s hard for them to take advantage of consumers on eBay and StockX when they also have to offload Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Ratchet & Clank and an extra PS5 DualSense controller and a membership.
The result? GameStop’s in-person restocks have been orderly if not a tad boring to cover as a journalist. Where’s the shouting by resellers while they’re rushing the line? Where’s the panic by actual gamers antsy about getting finally a console? Is no one throwing punches here?
And if not as many people want it from GameStop, which is a household name, shady resellers know people won’t want it from them.
There’s a middle ground for selling PS5 and Xbox
What I’d love to see from Walmart and other retailers is the return of forced bundles that you can customize. Walmart used to do this well on its website when it sold the last two generations of consoles deeper into their lifecycles.
Pick two games from a dozen options, then select an accessory from a list of three choices, and you’ll get a console bundle – one to your liking. This would cut down on resellers, yet not force eager-to-pay consumers to have to reconcile with purchasing two games they don’t like.
But logistically, I’d imagine this would be a nightmare. Walmart and other retailers are struggling to keep up with website traffic and fulfillment as it is. Walmart, put this in your hat for the future, when I’m inevitably coming back to help people for Black Friday 2022.
Walmart ‘Game Drop’ is consoles but not for keeps
It seems as if the sought-after consoles will be at the Walmart Gamer Drop for demo purposes only – you will be able to taste-test new games and hardware.
You just won’t be able to take the consoles home with you.
This Saturday’s in-person Gamer Drop event will start at 10:30am local time at select Walmart locations. You can plug your zip code in here to see which stores, keeping in mind that locations are subject to change for any reason.
Big-name event partners include Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo and EA, among others, according to Walmart. And, from now until December 11, you will be able to buy two consoles: the Walmart-exclusive Nintendo Switch bundle (the non-OLED console from 2017) and the Xbox Series S, both touted for online sales at $299.
People only hear what they want to hear
I don’t blame anyone who ran news about the Walmart Gamer Drop including a PS5 restock. Walmart’s 16-page flyer, featuring glossy photos of the 9th generation video game systems, sure did make it seem as if the consoles would be sold at the event.
The text even said (and actually still says) “available in-store and online” below the video game systems – but in between the picture of the consoles and that text are a bunch of video game titles, so... 🤷♂️
It just didn’t explicitly say the consoles would be restocked. It gave me pause.
People are so eager, they will hear what they want to hear. I once tweeted this about the Newegg Shuffle, which is a raffle to buy GPUs and consoles above MSRP:
“Worth a shot. People hate on this [raffle system], but if 5-7 of my followers get a GPU, worth trying.”
And also “PS5 + GPU lottery at Newegg. ~10 to 12 people reply / DM me they ‘won’ this chance to buy each time.” Suddenly, 200 people Direct Messaged me:
I was perplexed until I realized how the statements could be interpreted.
Walmart has stuck to online orders with a ship-to-home option since November 2020. Consoles are gone within seconds, like every American retailer with PS5 and Xbox stock I track 24/7 on Twitter. It’s become a bot-filled nightmare for consumers, though Walmart’s new queue system locked behind Walmart+ has helped deter resellers that I interviewed recently. Others have found workarounds, but feel “slowed down.”
At other stores without protections, resellers’ scripted bots scoop up hundreds of consoles at a time, bypassing the add-to-cart button (nope, they’re not using my links), while casual resellers get their unfair share, too, only to sell for profit.
Cancellations and thefts during shipping mean that securing a PS5 or Xbox in an online drop doesn’t actually mean you’ll end up getting it.
But, as hundreds of gamers who get physically pushed out of line at Best Buy have learned, in-person restocks can be even more disappointing – and downright dangerous.