Hoping to discourage crowding, many stores have moved sales online, using lottery systems, while others have shifted to low-profile sales that take place without prior warning, with consoles arriving on a random schedule.
The phenomenon is known as “guerrilla sales” in Japan, a term that first emerged with the Nintendo DS console, which was a victim of its own success during the 2000s
Some gamers are fighting back with their own tactics, including one who has set up a website gathering crowdsourced information.
“Last summer, I spent three months trying to buy a PlayStation 5, but every time I went to a store, they were sold out,” said the 40-year-old Japanese man, a researcher in artificial intelligence who asked to remain anonymous.
“The only option was to phone each store or find information on Twitter,” he told AFP.
“I thought to myself that everyone must have the same problem, and that creating a site to share information would help the community.”
“THERE’S NO LINE”
The site’s creator says he spends hours on weekends sorting and verifying up to 500 daily messages posted on its forum.
“For PS5s in Yokohama, they are now selling both the disc edition and the digital edition. It’s unclear how many units they have. There’s no line,” reads one post.
The information gives gamers real-time leads but is also fed into a calendar to highlight trends and analysed by an algorithm designed to predict when stores will have supplies.