With COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases growing worldwide and causing a global epidemic, effectively shutting down major markets, there is a chance that the PlayStation 5 could face supply shortages or even a delay into 2021 — a problem the Xbox Series X may encounter as well. A delay like this would be unprecedented for the games industry.
As of earlier this week, confirmed cases of the coronavirus blew past 100,000. Italy locked down the entire country in order to mitigate the spread, and other countries have already taken similar measures like shutting down schools, cancelling large public gatherings and trade shows, and closing factories. China, in particular, saw much of its workforce stay home, and this has already affected supply chains within the tech and games industries.
It's hard to predict how long it will be until the virus is contained.
Though neither Sony nor Microsoft has commented on potential PS5 or Xbox Series X delays, there has been increasing speculation within the past few weeks that both consoles could be affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. With what information is publicly available right now, both are expected to release holiday 2020. To hit that planned release date, the next-generation of consoles would likely be readying production — so long as specs are finalized — if production hasn't even already started.
Before COVID-19 became known on December 31, 2019, it was reported back in July that Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo had been looking to reduce console production in China at the time and move it elsewhere in anticipation of a trade war and increased tariffs because of Donald Trump. It's unknown what steps Sony may have taken to facilitate this move, so we aren't sure how much of its console production is still based in China.
Speaking to the Hollywood Reporter in late February, industry analyst Daniel Ahmad indicated that if the coronavirus was contained soon, manufacturers should be able to hit their targets by holiday 2020.
"If the coronavirus outbreak is contained within the next month or two then we would expect console manufacturers to be able to meet demand for the holiday quarter, both for current-gen consoles and next-gen console launches," said Ahmad. "If manufacturers are unable to operate at full capacity before the end of Q2 2020, we could see an impact on next-gen console launches, with either limited supply or delayed releases becoming the likely outcomes."
But in the same interview, Ahmad also said that he believed E3 was unlikely to be cancelled. And it appears that the ESA is poised to officially announce its cancellation any minute. This follows shortly after GDC, SXSW, and other trade shows were postponed or cancelled altogether.
It's hard to predict how long it will be until the virus is contained and we have large quantities of a vaccine readily available to the public, but it doesn't appear to be soon.
The PlayStation 5 could face supply shortages.
Sony was already reportedly struggling to secure enough memory parts for the PS5 due to supply shortages last month. Though there wasn't any indication that this was caused by the coronavirus outbreak, it still doesn't bode well for the PS5's production.
Until Sony or Microsoft comment on the issue, we're in a wait-and-see period. I'd imagine they wouldn't want to prematurely announce a delay, and I think COVID-19 is also playing a role in Sony's radio silence regarding the PS5 as the company figures out its next steps, but that's merely my own speculation. Whatever the case, be prepared for anything.