Xbox Series X and S Shortages Have Microsoft Asking AMD for Help

Microsoft’s Xbox Series X (black) and series S (white) gaming consoles are displayed at a flagship store of SK Telecom in Seoul on November 10, 2020.
Microsoft’s Xbox Series X (black) and series S (white) gaming consoles are displayed at a flagship store of SK Telecom in Seoul on November 10, 2020.
Photo: Jung Yeon-Je (Getty Images)

Supply issues have hamstrung the rollout of the latest generation of video game consoles. Even now, nearly two months after the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S released, Microsoft is still scrambling to meet demand and has reportedly reached out to chipmaker AMD to fast-track production on its end.

AMD manufactures the GPU and CPU for both consoles, so if it’s able to push out its chips faster, Microsoft could, in theory, churn out more consoles by extension. As spotted by VGC, Microsoft is “working as hard as we can” to pump out more systems and has even contacted AMD for help, according to Xbox head Phil Spencer in a recent appearance on the Major Nelson Radio podcast hosted by Xbox Live director of programming Larry Hyrb

“I get some people [asking], ‘why didn’t you build more? Why didn’t you start earlier? Why didn’t you ship them earlier?’ I mean, all of those things,” Spencer said. “It’s really just down to physics and engineering. We’re not holding them back: We’re building them as fast as we can. We have all the assembly lines going. I was on the phone last week with [CEO and president] Lisa Su at AMD [asking], ‘How do we get more? How do we get more?’ So it’s something that we’re constantly working on.”

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Back in November, Xbox’s chief financial officer Tim Stuart projected that Xbox supply issues could last until at least April. In 2020, Microsoft shipped an estimated 3.3 million units of its higher-end Xbox Series X, per Statista, and sold roughly 21,000 Xbox Series X and S units in Japan at launch.

Microsoft’s not the only one struggling, though: Competitor Sony is dealing with similar shortages for its next-gen console, the PlayStation 5, which also relies on AMD for its GPU and CPU.

“But it’s not just us, I think gaming has really come into its own in 2020,” Spencer told Hyrb. “Obviously, PlayStation 5 is in very tight supply. When you look at the graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia… there’s just a lot of interest in gaming right now and console sales are just a sign of that, game sales are a sign of that, and hardware is in short supply.”

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However, chipmakers like AMD and Nvidia already have their hands full with supply issues of their own. AMD struggled to meet the demand for its Ryzen 5000 series processors last year. A global shortage of GDDR6 memory has reportedly helped to bottleneck production for AMD’s Radeon RX 6000 and Nvidia’s RTX 3000 series GPUs, and things aren’t expected to improve until at least February. That could be slowing down the production of next-gen consoles as well since both the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X and S use GDDR6 RAM.

So it’s uncertain whether AMD would even be able to meet Microsoft’s call to action. Of course the coronavirus pandemic and rush to distribute vaccines could also be affecting global supply lines. And then there are the scalpers scooping up available stock to sell them at a markup. A recent analysis estimates that eBay scalpers have made more than $82 million in sales since September from reselling next-gen consoles and AMD and Nvidia chips.

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Gizmodo weekend editor. Freelance games reporter. Full-time disaster bi.

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DISCUSSION

ryubot4000
Ryuthrowsstuff

One of the under sung things about this situation might be ongoing shortages in other components. There’s wide reports of shortages in smaller components, and especially substrates. I’ve even seen reports that motherboard and video card makers can’t get enough PCBs.

These chips don’t roll out of the fab ready to go. They need to be packaged. Mounted in something, connectors added before they can be used. AMD (and nVidia) don’t make their own video cards either, they provide chips and designs to board partners who do that.

It seems entirely possible that if there were enough chips in the pipeline. But there were delays in lining up materials to actually deliver and use them at a couple steps along the way. Then you’d end up with a throughput problem.

You could have plenty of silicon coming out of TSMC. And it wouldn’t matter how early you started, or how planned out volume was. It’d just take longer to go from point A with a chip to point B with a finished consumer product.