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PS5 and Xbox Series X are still sold out: Here's what to buy instead

The supply of new consoles sounds like it won't loosen up until at least summer 2021, so here are some gaming ideas you can pick up right now.

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Dan Ackerman/CNET

The biggest change in new console availability I've noticed in recent weeks is that more people may now be looking for an Xbox Series X rather than a PS5. That may be because some shoppers have given up on finding the ever-elusive PlayStation 5, or because recent A-list additions to Xbox Game Pass like Outriders or NBA 2K21 are making the case for Xbox's added value. Still, both consoles remain hard to find, as does the smaller Xbox Series S

For example, Sony has said it shipped 4.5 million consoles, but that's barely made a dent in demand and the tight supply for these new consoles may continue until June of this year, partly because of a worldwide chip shortage

In late 2020, the initial preorders for the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X sold out in seconds, and subsequent restocks at stores from Walmart to Best Buy to Amazon have vanished just as quickly, only to turn up on the resale market thanks to an exploding population of shopbots. (Check this link regularly for the latest PS5 restock alerts.)

But that doesn't mean you should just give up on new gaming experiences. Frankly, there's little that's exclusive or only playable on the new consoles and most games will look and play nearly identically on the older PS4 or Xbox One consoles (OK, not Cyberpunk 2077, but that's a whole other story). 

More: How to avoid PS5 and Xbox Series X FOMO

Other game machines, such as the Oculus Quest 2 and Nintendo Switch (if you don't already have one), offer a lot more for your gaming buck, and PC gaming hardware is already blowing past PS5/Xbox performance, thanks to new Nvidia GPUs and Intel CPUs. Or, consider making the switch to full-time cloud gaming, or taking your gaming old-school with retro mini-consoles or (gasp!) tabletop games, which are enjoying a huge renaissance right now. 


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Nintendo Switch, Oculus Quest: these are my next-gen consoles.

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Nintendo Switch and Oculus Quest 2 ($500)

For the same price as a PS5 or Xbox Series X, you can buy two of the best pieces of gaming hardware ever released. The Nintendo Switch Lite is a genius handheld, playing some of the world's most popular games, and the new Oculus Quest 2 is the VR device that finally makes virtual reality fun, easy and affordable. For living room TV action, throw in an extra $100 and get the full TV-connected version of the Switch. 

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Cloud and streaming game services ($5-$15)

The future of consoles is no consoles at all. Trust me on this. I was a little ahead of the game back in the early 2010s, but cloud gaming actually works now, and every major tech company is pouring tons of money and resources into it, including Google's Stadia; Amazon's Luna, Microsoft's xCloud and Nvidia's GeForce Now. Most allow you to buy and play individual games a la carte, and also offer monthly subscriptions, from $5-$15, that give you more games, better connections and other perks. 

I love being able to jump into the same game on a phone, tablet, Mac, or even some TV streaming boxes. On the other hand, GeForce Now, which I consider the most universally useful of the cloud gaming services, recently upped its monthly fee from $5 to $10 for new customers (existing members can keep the old pricing plan). 

Read more about them below:

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Retro game machines ($50-$100)

If you don't already have a PS4 or Xbox One (yes, the PlayStation system names make a lot more sense), they're still available for $299 and up, although I'd consider holding out for an Xbox Series S for the same $299. 

Instead, consider a shot of nostalgia for yourself, or an interactive history lesson for the younglings, with the Sega Genesis Mini, Turbografix-16 Mini or the SNES Classic Edition (aka, the Super Nintendo Mini). All three pack a bunch of classic games into a tiny '80s console reproduction, and cost around $100 or less. A last-minute entry in this category, the $50 Nintendo Game and Watch reproduction, plays a couple of classic Super Mario games in something the size of a credit card. 

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The Razer Blade Advanced

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Gaming PCs ($670 and up)

The uncomfortable truth of video games is that even a brand-new $500 PlayStation 5 can't really compete with even a modest dedicated gaming PC. Almost every new game looks and plays better on PC, and the steady progress of PC graphics cards means that gaming laptops and desktops will continue to evolve, while the Xbox Series X and PS5 will be stuck with their current hardware configurations. We have recommendations for the best overall gaming laptops here; and the best gaming laptops under $1,000 here.

If you're a work-from-home type, a big, powerful gaming laptop can easily do double duty for both corproate or creative projects and gaming. 

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Yes, that's a Gamorrean guard on the far right. 

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Board games (and yes, chess sets)

Go bold, go analog! Traditional tabletop games are having a cultural moment right now, and board games can offer complex gameplay, deep storytelling, and, yes, lots of cool little miniatures chasing each other around map tiles. Sci-fi, fantasy and prohibition-era Lovecraftian horror seem to be the major genres right now, and if you want my top picks to start with -- from Gloomhaven to Mansions of Madness -- I've collected them here. My colleague David Priest also has suggestions for great two-player board games here

The hit Netflix show The Queen's Gambit has led to renewed interest in the most classic board game of all, chess (I'd also accept Go as a correct answer). This Harry Potter chess set is the second-best-selling one on Amazon right now, but it has plastic pieces, so I'd instead suggest this solid-looking wood set for under $30.

For something a little more out there, the Exploding Kittens empire continues to grow, and the latest offshoot -- a two-player tile game called A Little Wordy -- will be released on April 11. 

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