Xbox's Console Purchase Pilot program reveals the true extent of shortages

Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S
Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S (Image credit: Matt Brown | Windows Central)

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's a program that should've been introduced a while ago and one that indicates the shortage nightmare is long from being over.

Make no mistake: It's a smart program. It encourages current Xbox fans to stay within the ecosystem by giving them a direct line of access to the newest consoles. It helps them avoid the headaches of scouring retailer pages and praying they beat scalpers to the punch. But smart or otherwise, the program's mid-May 2021 arrival says a lot about Microsoft's forecast for the future.

A complete sellout of units seven months into the products' availability would be unheard of in a normal console generation. The Xbox One and Xbox 360 never had to worry about a situation like this one. But thanks to the pandemic and associated production limitations, growth of gaming as a worldwide activity in general, and a global emphasis on stay-at-home entertainment, the Xbox Series X and S remain scarce commodities over half a year into their debut.

Halo Infinite

Source: 343 Industries (Image credit: Source: 343 Industries)

Perhaps you thought the shortages would start winding down soon. After all, we're talking about two machines that still have zero — yes, zero — exclusive AAA games. Early adopters and people who get really, really excited by something pedestrian like SSDs would explain why the X and S were sold out at launch, but surely by now, things would be starting to settle down, right? Wrong.

Microsoft's kickoff of the Console Purchase Pilot indicates the company sees shortages continuing for the indefinite future. The staggered rollout of the pilot, what with it being U.S.-exclusive and for Xbox Insiders only for the time being, implies that Microsoft's expecting shortages to last long enough for a slow rollout not only to be viable, but optimal.

We're talking months more of shortages here, at minimum. And as we enter the second half of 2021, the holiday season will only exacerbate issues. Does Microsoft foresee troubles lasting well into 2022? What about 2023?

The only thing that's certain is that Microsoft should've implemented a program like this one much earlier to try to cut scalpers off at the knees before they took over the market. And the fact that the tech giant still feels it's a relevant program to implement seven months after launch should make you wonder just how long the nightmare is expected to continue.

Robert Carnevale is the News Editor for Windows Central. He's a big fan of Kinect (it lives on in his heart), Sonic the Hedgehog, and the legendary intersection of those two titans, Sonic Free Riders. He is the author of Cold War 2395. Have a useful tip? Send it to robert.carnevale@futurenet.com.

9 Comments
  • This is unfortunate. I do hope they take this time to improve the Xbox software experience. Not saying that anything is wrong at all with it. Just saying that overall improvements and fixes could be worked on, as a routine, optimizing things under the hood slightly more than they might usually do in the first year after a modern console launch. By the time more people are able to buy the systems, they will have even happier users on the platform. Hope that makes sense. I myself use an Xbox One S and AFAIK, the Xbox UI looks the same on the series S and X? If the exact same underlying codebase is used, it’s a win-win situation to improve anything they can for the Xbox One generation.
  • I don't like this stupid concept of hindsight criticism. Launch shortages have always happened but they always cleared up. This is the one time they didn't. Yes, this would have been a great system to have in place. But that's only because we know now. That said, they should structure it so having a long ongoing XBL or GP sub played a large role in getting you in line early. That would keep the speculators out of the pipeline or at least make the speculators pony up to Microsoft for years to get a chance to see any return on investment. That would at least make it easier for actual gamers to get a console. Microsoft could even limit the purchase amount to one each in that system. Once you get your one "gamer" system, if you want another one you go into the open market.
  • We've known for many, many months, and it's not like Microsoft couldn't see manufacturing/supply chain issues on its end pre-launch. Sure, unprecedented demand is a wildcard variable, but many red flags were being waved from the outset with this particular console launch. One would've expected this sort of a program to enter the pilot phase in January after two months of scalpers reigning supreme made it clear that things weren't working as intended. Big corporations are slow machines, but this response time does seem a little on the slow side even given that. Still, faster than the competition.
  • Tempted to partake but I also want to wait for a halo infinite edition series x. 🤔
  • Interesting strat. If the base models are impossible to get, one can only imagine how intense the competition will be for a limited Halo edition. Good luck, in any case. Rootin' for ya!
  • True, but let's say only one console per tester/user. do I really want to blow that chance on a regular x or keep waiting, when my one x is doing just fine.
  • It's a great idea. I'm glad that they're doing something. As far as everything else, I don't think blaming Microsoft is the answer. Who could've seen a global pandemic, a chip shortage, console shortages lasting this long or scalpers being such dicks? It's just a perfect storm of events. I don't have one and I don't think I'll be getting one anytime soon but it's still a cool program.
  • Sony's program is how I got a PS5 and with enough people getting PS5s i was able to get an XSX (and i sold the PS5 at cost to a friend) I love Gamepass, it's all I want/need so I was happy to get a friend his PlayStation and score a series x
  • Are the shortages truly that bad? I was fortunate enough to pre-order a Series X on day one but I fairly easily bought two more before Christmas and auctioned them off for charity donations. Edit: I'm aware that technically makes me a scalper, but I thought it was a pretty easy way to raise money for charities.