FARGO — It is normal to talk shop with co-owner Cassidy Schnase when entering Replay Games, a pay-by-the-hour video game cafe in downtown Fargo with consoles old and new. From Nintendo to the PlayStation 4, he has thousands of games across several platforms, but customers won't find the latest consoles released last fall.
"We want to get them as soon as we can, but we don't want to destroy the bank while we do it," Schnase explained.
Since release, the Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X have been constantly sold out, selling second-hand for hundreds more than the normal price. Buyers often have less than ten seconds to buy them online when a store gets a new shipment. Schnase said he has not seen a console shortage this bad since the Nintendo Wii launched in 2006.
"Every time a new console comes out, scarcity is always a factor," Schnase said. "So I think the biggest issue this time around is that there is so much more online marketplace presence as well as stimulus money."
One key factor is the semi-conductor shortage brought on by the pandemic. It is a common part used across modern electronics.
The shortage is even worse for computer games.
Sean Sanford runs Section 9, a cyber café in Fargo mainly specializing in gaming computers. To play modern video games, a computer needs good parts. At the very least, it needs a component called a graphics card.
"It kind of was like the perfect storm," Sanford said. "So the more powerful your graphics card is, the better your game is going to look and the smoother it's going to run."
The latest 30-series graphics cards released last fall, with the 3080 priced at about $700. This is what Sanford hopes to get to upgrade his computers at Section 9. The graphics cards they currently have are a couple generations behind the 30-series, but still capable of running most modern games in high definition.
Sanford said the demand is sky-high, so the cards are constantly out of stock, often going for between $2,000 to $5,000 on eBay. The high demand is also being driven by crypto currency miners, who use graphics cards to get Bitcoin and other digital assets.
"Two years or a year ago, before the pandemic, you could build just an amazing gaming PC for $5,000 and now with the shortage, $5,000 will only get you one component for your computer, so it's rough," Sanford said.
Computer graphics cards have never had a demand issue this bad in Sanford's experience. Until the shortage finally subsides, both he and Schanse are making due with the machines they have.
Fortunately for Schnase, he is not too worried about getting the new consoles for Replay Games, since they both do not have a lot of exclusive games.
"It's scarce right now, but you get one and there's not a lot to play right now," he said.
As for Section 9, Sanford said they could use an upgrade.
"We will have to get an upgrade eventually," he said. So I'm hoping that the silicon shortage and the scalpers and stuff kind of fall off a little bit so we can actually get some new graphics cards and stuff."
Representatives with Nvidia expect the graphics card shortage to last until sometime next year. The same delays are expected for the PS5 and new Xbox consoles.