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Surprise! Xbox Preorders Were A Total Mess, Too

Xbox Series X and S preorders went live this morning right on time, as expected. At least, they did in some places. For some people. As long as you weren’t stuck in a queue, or told it was sold out when it seemingly was not. At least Amazon had pictures of cute dogs to keep you company.

Predictably, Xbox preorders were a shitshow, demonstrating for the third time in a short span (after the RTX 3080 and PS5) that retailer websites just aren’t equipped to deal with this level of heavy demand. Microsoft appears to have done what it could, announcing that preorders would go live at a specified time so that people could be prepared, rather than giving bots the opportunity to scrape everything up as they went live. But everyone knowing exactly when preorders would begin also ensured the maximum amount of traffic to all of these websites, and none of them seem to have handled it particularly well.

For starters, neither Amazon nor Best Buy had their preorders available right at 8 AM PT. That may have meant you were stuck frustratingly refreshing those pages, expecting them to be live any second, when you could have been spending your time frustratingly refreshing pages on Walmart, Target, and the Xbox Store, where there were consoles to place orders on right away.

Much like with PS5 last week, it was a crapshoot: Maybe you’d get an order through, maybe you wouldn’t. Either way, you were likely faced with numerous messages claiming that systems were sold out, even as orders for other people were getting through. The lesson in these situations, clearly, is to never trust what a retailer’s website claims about the stock situation and mash the checkout and refresh buttons over and over and over until something happens.

As eager would-be buyers failed at one retailer or another, seemingly everyone rushed to whatever store opened its preorders next–Sam’s Club, then Amazon, then Best Buy. That further ensured that these websites would be dealing with a heavy load, continuing the trend of false “sold out” notifications, consoles being inexplicably removed from carts, and so on. Amazon was the closest thing to a smooth ride, but there was no telling when its preorders would actually start.

After GameStop’s website collapsed during PS5 preorders, this time around, visitors to the site were met with a queue and told not to reload. That seemed like a sensible solution, but as some found out, that queue didn’t seem to function properly: People got through by opening the site in a second browser after already sitting in the queue, and the queue page itself was automatically refreshing itself.

All of this was to be expected, but it still made for a hugely frustrating experience no matter which store you turned to or whether or not you actually got one. And those who do will be spending the next few days or weeks worried that their preorder might either be canceled or not show up on launch day.

Sony’s PS5 preorder situation was worse than this because there was no advance notice or real warning regarding how it would work. Microsoft capitalized on that to cheekily highlight that people would know when Xbox preorders would start. Sony apologized for how it handled things, and while Microsoft might have positioned all of this better from the start, the end result was still a mess. Scalpers are already taking to eBay to turn a profit on their luck, further ensuring that–if you didn’t get one on your own–you walk away from the experience with a bad taste in your mouth.

Ultimately, all of this will be forgotten. Like online servers for a game crashing at launch, once things are smoothed out and working as expected, the annoyance of times like this will fade away. But in the meantime, many are going to walk away feeling like their time was wasted.

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