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Gaming prices spike amid console shortages – Winnipeg Free Press

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Ben Hoban, 17, of Clarks Summit, Pa., carries his new Sony PlayStation 5 video game console out of a GameStop store on Black Friday, in Dickson City, Pa. Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Christopher Dolan/The Times-Tribune

TORONTO – A shortage of video game consoles during the COVID-19 pandemic has been highly lucrative for resellers like Rick Charles.

The 25-year-old project manager has made as much as $500 profit on the sale of each coveted new PlayStation 5.

“Everyone kind of knew that Sony wasn’t going to be able to produce to demand and when you have guys that are buying 50, 20 at a time, the average retail buyer is not going to have a chance,” he said in an interview.

And so buyers, especially parents before the Christmas holidays, were willing to fork out big bucks for the newest PS5, which retails for $499 or $630, depending on the version, but was going for up to $1,500 a piece on sites such as Facebook’s Marketplace and Kijiji during the height of the lockdowns.

While those prices have since come down to between $750 and $950, it’s still a lot of money for households with limited budgets. However, experts say there are alternative and more affordable ways to quench the thirst for gaming.

Gaming has exploded in popularity during the pandemic as people have more time on their hands and can use the devices to communicate with friends.

In Canada, spending on gaming across PC, console and mobile increased to almost US$2.9 billionin 2020, with gaming forecasted to generate more than $3 billion in 2021, says Morris Garrard, research analyst of mobile tech and gaming at Futuresource Consulting in the U.K.

Ancillary markets such as gaming headsets also saw a boom in demand (for both gaming and working and schooling from home) with shipments in Canada growing by 29 per cent year-over-year in 2020.

The excess demand for new consoles is expected to abate mid-year following new waves of restocks, Garrard said.

Walmart says it is restocking the PS5 online to provide a “fair and equal opportunity” to buy the sought-after item.

“This gives all customers the same access to the larger pool of product and allows us to communicate to all customers at the same time,” spokeswoman Felicia Fefer wrote in an email.

“When we do restock, we prefer to surprise and delight our customers versus provide advanced notice,” she said, adding that there is a limit of one unit per customer.

Nathan Santos, 23, searched online daily for months before he nabbed a unit late one evening from Walmart after several close calls.

“I probably opened the page 15 seconds after that notification went out and already the digital editions were out and so I said I’m not waiting anymore and I bought the disc version,” said the Mississauga, Ont., substitute elementary school teacher.

“I couldn’t believe it. I actually sent a video to a few of my friends on Snapchat basically in shock.”

Santos isn’t a big fan of resellers, whom he accuses of preventing gamers from getting their hands on systems at retail prices.

“I’m not willing to pay several hundred dollars more for this console when I know eventually I’ll be able to get one for retail price.”

The root of the shortages are production challenges that have limited the output of semiconductors chipsets, an issue that is also plaguing the auto industry.

Kris Alexander, assistant professor at Ryerson University’s RTA School of Media, says despite accusations from some quarters of intentional supply restrictions, similar shortages have affected previous versions of PlayStation and other systems such as Xbox Series X and S.

“There’s no confirmation of whether or not this has been done purposefully but there is a timeline of it happening with the PS2, the PS3, the PS4 and now the PS5,” he said.

The self-described professor of video games said you don’t necessarily have to be rich to enjoy the hobby, as some free games are available online and older consoles can be purchased used.

“I have never had the money to buy a console in its first release year, except the 1999 Sega Dreamcast,” Alexander said, adding that he still plays the old Wii U with his children.

“If we can just tilt away from hype for a second, we can see there’s a plethora of games for free, many by AAA companies that you can play for free right now.”

The library is also a good place to find some games for free, said Kent Sikstrom, community relations manager for Kijiji Canada, which saw a 372 per cent increase in searches for the term PlayStation during the first few weeks of its availability last fall.

That initial surge of excitement was also seen with other gaming systems from Xbox and the Nintendo Switch.

In addition to searching for new PS5s, there’s also been an increase in demand for refurbished and used systems as people who have struggled during the pandemic search for deals.

Some companies offer video game rental subscription services and older games can be traded in for a new title.

“So you can still play the latest games, one game at a time, for a monthly subscription fee, which is far cheaper than let’s say $100 a pop for the newest game.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2021.

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$600K donation to boost online mental health programming in Nova Scotia – CBC.ca

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Nova Scotia Health’s mental health and addictions program hopes to offer more online support to people across the province after receiving a significant donation this week.

The QEII Foundation announced that RBC is contributing $600,000 toward the province’s e-mental health programming.

“It’s particularly important for the current time under all the strains of COVID,” said Dr. Andrew Harris, a psychiatrist and the senior medical director for the program.

The plan for online programming has been in the works for years, he said, but the pandemic expedited the push. Last June, the department launched a number of applications that can be used to help those with anxiety, depression and addictions.

Since then, as many as 3,000 Nova Scotians have used the site to access mental health services.

“There’s a persistent difficulty in accessing services,” Harris said of traditional models in Nova Scotia. He said those who don’t need intensive therapy may find the support they need through the online programs.

He uses the example of someone who can’t take time off work to speak to a clinician.

“It’s better for them to be able to access a service after hours or on the weekend. So our e-mental health services are tailored a little bit to meet that need.”

Calls to crisis line increase

Harris said the province’s mental health crisis line continues to see a 30 per cent increase in calls for help, so he’s trying to raise awareness that services can be accessed immediately online.

“I think everyone is aware that for a lot of people it’s much easier to talk about a physical illness than a mental illness. So there’s an allowance there for privacy, for some anonymity but still making available things that can help the person who is struggling in the community.”

The online portal has a list of programs that people can use, covering things like reducing stress, solving problems and becoming mindful. It mirrors a site in Newfoundland and Labrador that Harris said is used to help people in remote areas. 

Harris said the donation from RBC will be used to continue to evaluate more services, and pay for the licensing of the products that are mostly developed by other organizations.

He encourages anyone who is struggling to test out the site, and use it as an entry point into the mental health system.

“It’s important for people to acknowledge when they’re struggling. It happens to all of us through our lives in different times.”

Anyone in Nova Scotia looking to access the tools can visit: https://mha.nshealth.ca.

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Samsung’s cheapest 5G Galaxy phones yet are launching this month

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Samsung

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

  • Samsung is launching five new phones in its Galaxy A series this month.
  • Three of them will support 5G connectivity, and the most expensive phone is just $500.
  • The cheapest phone of the five still has three cameras but lacks 5G and other features.
  • See more buying advice on the Insider Reviews homepage.

Samsung may be best known for its high-end Galaxy S phones that rival the iPhone. But the tech giant is proving that it can appeal to cost-conscious customers with the launch of five new smartphones in the United States, the priciest of which only costs $500.

Samsung’s new lineup of budget phones, which debuted in other markets before coming to the US, are all launching this month. Some of them will be released as soon as this week, while the least expensive model will debut on April 29. The launch comes as competitors like Apple and Google have also been focusing on cheaper smartphones to boost sales.

Three of these new Samsung devices also support 5G, another sign that shoppers no longer have to pay a premium to get access to next-generation wireless networks. All five of the new phones also have the traditional headphone jack for wired listening and run on an octa-core processor.

Here’s a look at the new Samsung Galaxy A series phones that will be launching soon.

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

Galaxy A52 5G_Awesome Black_Front_Back



Samsung

  • Release date: April 9
  • Price: $499.99

The Galaxy A52 5G is the most expensive smartphone of the bunch. It comes with a 6.5-inch FHD+ screen and a quad-camera system that includes some of the same features as Samsung’s more expensive Galaxy S phones. These include Single Take, which creates several different photos or video clips with different effects with a single press of the shutter button.

Its screen can also boost its refresh rate up to 120Hz for smoother scrolling and performance, a feature that has become common on pricier flagship phones but is rare on cheaper models. It’s also the only phone in this A-series lineup to include Samsung’s notch-free screen design.

Samsung Galaxy A42 5G

Galaxy A42 5G_Prism Dot Black_Front_Back



Samsung

  • Release date: April 8
  • Price: $399.99

The less expensive Galaxy A42 5G has a slightly larger screen than the A52 5G, but scales back on certain features when it comes to the camera and screen refresh rate.

Still, it has a triple-lens camera with high-resolution sensors, and like its pricier sibling it also supports Single Take.

Samsung Galaxy A32 5G

GalaxyA32 5G_Awesome Black_Front



Samsung

Release date: April 9

Price: $279.99

The Galaxy A32 5G is Samsung’s cheapest 5G smartphone to date. It has a large 6.5-inch screen, but it’s made from an LCD panel instead of Super AMOLED. That means it will likely lack some of the contrast and boldness of Samsung’s other devices. But Samsung hasn’t skimped on the camera considering this model has a quad-lens main camera, which is rare if not unheard of at that price.

Samsung Galaxy A12

Galaxy A12_Black_Back



Samsung

Release date: April 9

Price: $179.99

Samsung’s Galaxy A12 doesn’t come with 5G support, but it still gives you a lot for the price. For less than $200, you’re getting a quad-lens camera and a large 6.5-inch LCD screen. But remember this phone only has 32GB of storage, so it’s best suited for those who don’t store a lot of photos and videos on their device.

Samsung Galaxy A02s

Galaxy A02s_Black_Front



Samsung

  • Release date: April 29
  • Price: $109.99

The Galaxy A02s is Samsung’s cheapest phone, offering a 6.5-inch LCD screen and three main cameras. It doesn’t have 5G support or as much computing power or camera prowess as Samsung’s other A-series phones, but that’s to be expected for a device at this price. This phone is truly for those who just need the basics and little else.

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Disclosure: This post is brought to you by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at reviews@businessinsider.com.

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Starving for more chips in a tech hungry world – Electronic Products & Technology

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As the U.S. economy rebounds from its pandemic slump, a vital cog is in short supply: the computer chips that power a wide range of products that connect, transport and entertain us in a world increasingly dependent on technology.

The shortage has already been rippling through various markets since last summer. It has made it difficult for schools to buy enough laptops for students forced to learn from home, delayed the release of popular products such as the iPhone 12 and created mad scrambles to find the latest video game consoles such as the PlayStation 5.

Source: Adobe Stock

But things have been getting even worse in recent weeks, particularly in the auto industry, where factories are shutting down because there aren’t enough chips to finish building vehicles that are starting to look like computers on wheels. The problem was recently compounded by a grounded container ship that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week, choking off chips headed from Asia to Europe.

These snags are likely to frustrate consumers who can’t find the vehicle they want and sometimes find themselves settling for a lower-end models without as many fancy electronic features. And it threatens to leave a big dent in the auto industry, which by some estimates stands to lose $60 billion in sales during the first half of his year.

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“We have been hit by the perfect storm, and it’s not going away any time soon,” said Baird technology analyst Ted Mortonson, who said he has never seen such a serious shortage in nearly 30 years tracking the chip industry.

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Is the pandemic to blame?

Sort of. The pandemic prompted chip factories to start shutting down early last year, particularly overseas, where the majority of the processors are made. By the time they started to reopen, they had a backlog of orders to fill.

That wouldn’t have been as daunting if chipmakers weren’t then swamped by unforeseen demand. For instance, no one entered 2020 expecting to see a spike in personal computer sales after nearly a decade of steady decline. But that’s what happened after government lockdowns forced millions of office workers to do their jobs from homes while students mostly attended their classes remotely.

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Are other factors at work?

Yes. Both Sony and Microsoft were preparing to release highly anticipated next-generation video game consoles for their PlayStation and Xbox brands, respectively, that required more sophisticated chips than ever. To add to the demand, wireless network providers are clamouring for chips to power ultrafast “5G” services being built around the world.

President Donald Trump’s trade war with China probably didn’t help either. Some analysts believe the Trump administration’s blacklisting of Huawei Technologies prompted that major maker of smartphones to build a huge stockpile of chips as it braced for the crackdown.

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Why is the Auto industry being hit so hard?

Stay-at-home orders drove a surge in consumer electronics sales, squeezing auto parts suppliers who use chips for computers that control gas pedals, transmissions and touch screens. Chip makers compounded the pressure by rejiggering factory lines to better serve the consumer-electronics market, which generates far more revenue for them than autos.

After eight weeks of pandemic-induced shutdown in the spring, automakers started reopening factories earlier than they had envisioned. But then they were hit with unexpected news: chip makers weren’t able to flip a switch quickly and make the types of processors needed for cars.

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How are automakers dealing with the shortage?

They’ve cancelled shifts and temporarily closed factories. Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler (now Stellantis), Volkswagen and Honda seem to have been hit the hardest. Others, most notably Toyota, aren’t being affected as dramatically. That is probably because Toyota was better prepared after learning how sudden, unexpected shocks can disrupt supply chains from the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in 2011, said Bank of America Securities analyst Vivek Arya.

The harder hit automakers have diverted chips from slower-selling models to those in high demand, such as pickup trucks and large SUVs. Ford, GM and Stellantis have started building vehicles without some computers, putting them in storage with plans to retrofit them later.

GM expects the chip shortage to cost it up to $2 billion in pretax profits this year from lost production and sales. Ford is bracing for a similar blow. Chip makers probably won’t fully catch up with auto-industry demand until July at the earliest.

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How will this affect people who want to buy a new car?

Expect to pay more. Supplies of many models were tight even before the chip shortage because automakers were having trouble making up for production lost to the pandemic.

IHS Markit estimates that from January through March, the chip shortage reduced North American auto production by about 100,000 vehicles. In January of last year, before the pandemic, the U.S. auto industry had enough vehicles to supply 77 days of demand. By February of 2021 it was down almost 30% to 55 days.

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Will other popular products be affected this year?

Samsung Electronics, one of the world’s biggest chipmakers, recently warned that its vast line-up of consumer electronics could be affected by the shortage. Without specifying which products might be affected, Samsung co-CEO Koh Dong-jin told shareholders that a “serious imbalance” between the supply and demand for chips could hurt sales from April through June.

___

What’s going to prevent this from happening again?

There are no quick fixes, but chipmakers appear to be be gearing up to meet future challenges.

Intel, which for decades has dominated the market for PC chips, recently made waves by announcing plans to invest $20 billion in two new factories in Arizona. Even more significant, Intel revealed said it is starting a new division that will enter into contracts to make chips tailored for other firms in addition to its own processors. That’s a major departure for Intel, aligning it more closely with a model popularized by TaiwanSemiconductorManufacturing Co., or TSMC, which already had been building a plant in Arizona, too.

Compelled by the current shortage, TSMC also has committed to spending $100 billion during the next three years to expand its worldwide chip manufacturing capacity. About $28 billion of that investment will come this year to boost production at factories that have been unable to keep up with the surge in demand since the pandemic began, according to TSMC Chief Executive Officer C.C. Wei.

And President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion plan to improve U.S. infrastructure includes an estimated $50 billion to help make the the country less reliant on chips made overseas. The U.S. share of the worldwide chip manufacturing market has declined from 37% in 1990 to 12% today, according toSemiconductorIndustry Association, a trade group.

But chips won’t start coming out of any new factories built as part of the spending splurge for two to three years. And even as existing factories ramp up and expand to meet current demand, some analysts wonder if there might be a glut of processors a year from now.

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Krisher reported from Detroit.

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