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Pandemic fuels gaming console wars



It was before 7 a.m. on Black Friday, and already a line had formed outside GameStop on North Cockrell Hill Road in Dallas. Luis Jimenez stood with the others in the cool, gray morning, waiting for the store to open. He was there to buy a gaming system for his son.

The popularity of gaming has soared this year, fueled by the number of people stuck at home during the pandemic. Gaming consoles are in increased demand, and the website predicted they would sell out quickly. Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 were an especially hot commodity, having just been released in mid-November.  

When GameStop opened, those were the items that sold first. There was still a line outside when an employee announced the new consoles had sold out. The line grew shorter as people left and walked empty-handed to their cars.

Others, like Jimenez, had come looking for other Black Friday deals. Jimenez purchased a Nintendo Switch bundle for $386, which included a headset, tempered glass protection, a protective case and a one-year GameStop membership.

“[I was looking for] a little Nintendo Switch, Mario Kart, something [my son] could play on the go and at home,” Jimenez said. “A PS5 and all that you can’t really take on the go, so I feel like [the Switch] is really convenient.”

Lorenzo Almanza, 28, from Dallas was also looking for a Nintendo Switch. He drove over to GameStop from another store when they didn’t have it.  

“I’ve always been a big fan of the Switch, but I always wait a year for games because they’re cheaper the following year,” Almanza said. “I saw the bundle going and so I came out here to see what I could get.”

Unlike Almanza, who got his console with relatively no problems, many have come away from stores or shopping sites with these words: “I wasn’t on time.” Since the release of the Xbox Series X and PS5 on Nov. 10 and Nov. 12 respectively, they have been almost impossible to find.

Major chain stores such as Walmart, Best Buy and GameStop haven’t been able to keep them in stock because of high demand. Those who are looking to buy the new consoles need to either wait until enough are placed inside stores or until they become available for online purchasing.

The Xbox Series X and the PS5 share similar specs like higher frames per second that allow for faster and smoother gameplay, but what makes them appealing to gamers is the new features that improve on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Faster booting times, faster loading times, game exclusives for each system, backwards compatibility, better graphics and improved control handling are some of the reasons for all the excitement surrounding the new systems.

Josh Campbell, an education major at Eastfield and a gamer, has his sights on the PS5. He doesn’t see much of a difference between the rival consoles, but he looks forward to playing it with his friends who mostly have PlayStations.

Campbell heard about the PS5 way before it came out, however he didn’t go shopping for the system at stores when it was available during Black Friday because of the pandemic.

“It just does not seem safe because I feel like a lot of people will be going out,” he said. “And a lot of people don’t like wearing masks or social distancing. And the numbers in Dallas have been going way back up.”

But Campbell said he is also suspicious that what happened with the release of the PlayStation 4 in 2013 may happen with the new console. A number of players were met with blue screens that didn’t allow them to access the game’s menus or start playing their games. Shipping problems also caused some of the systems to be damaged.

Campbell said he plans to wait to buy the PS5 until any potential problems that the new console may have are fixed and things get better with the pandemic.

In the following months, more opportunities will become available for gamers to get their hands on their preferred video game console. The popularity of video games is unlikely to go away. One thing is for sure—players will continue to game on despite the pandemic.

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