If you intend to pick up a PlayStation 4 for Christmas and haven't done so already, it's not too late — but that doesn't mean it will be easy to find. With Amazon's stock fluctuating unpredictably, you'll have to look to alternative sources and exercise a little ingenuity if you want to get a PS4 before Dec. 25.
You can (and probably should) spend some time hunting through big-box stores like Best Buy, Target and Walmart, as they get frequent shipments of just about everything, and are likely to receive a few additional PS4s between now and Christmas.
This method, however, is unreliable and will put you in direct conflict with crazed shoppers of every stripe — and if history is any indication, no matter how desperate you are to get that console, one of them will go to even more drastic measures. You don't want to be the person who gets in his or her way.
You can try checking inventory online, but this can be misleading — if a product sells out right away or is reserved for another person, the "in-stock" notification is meaningless. Calling is also not a great idea: This time of year, hold times are excessive, and you'll likely just waste both an employee's time and your own.
PS4s tend to be scarcer than their Xbox One counterparts, but there are still a few places you can check out if you absolutely, positively must have one by Christmas. (If you can wait, even a few weeks, console stock tends to replenish at a respectable rate starting in January.) Start with indie game stores, GameStop stores and Sony retail stores.
Indie game stores are definitely a gamble when it comes to new consoles, but their unpredictable nature can work in your favor as easily as against it. They often have small staffs that know exactly when they'll be getting shipments of consoles. You won't be able to preorder one, but if you know when a new batch of PS4s is coming in, it's easy enough to be one of the first people at the store that day.
Indie game stores are not incredibly easy to come by, but if you live near a major urban center, you'll probably be able to find at least one or two. New York has a relatively thriving indie-game-store economy, for example, and a Google search can help you find locations in other cities like Baltimore, Boston and San Francisco.
When consoles first launch, gamers flock to GameStop to pick them up, but after that, most consumers seem to prefer trying their luck at big-box stores. Plenty of GameStop stores are sold out of PS4s, and that has led many shoppers to give up before they even try. Especially if you have a few different GameStop locations in your area, it's well worth your time to drop in when they first open.
Another option that has slipped by many consumers is the Sony store. Sony has a number of boutique retail stores, where it sells its own products at exactly retail price. You won't find any deals at Sony stores, but with so many other shoppers scrabbling over PS4s at big-name stores, you might just find a PS4.
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The problem with the Sony-store approach is that there aren't that many Sony stores, and they are not necessarily any more likely than other stores to receive PS4 shipments. There are a few dozen Sony stores near major U.S. cities, so they're worth checking out if you live nearby, if only because they're not usually a go-to location for game consoles.
If you don't mind buying bundles, the Toys "R" Us website has PS4 bundles with either "Call of Duty: Ghosts" and "Killzone Shadow Fall" or "Knack" and "Lego Marvel Super Heroes" available to ship out immediately. The extra games bump the bundle costs up to $520, though, and there is no option to buy the console without them.
Finally, it's worth keeping an eye on the PS4 page on NowInStock. This site monitors which stores and websites get PS4s in real-time, although it's best used as a complement to — not a substitute for — a little legwork.
If all else fails, you can still play nearly every big game of 2013 on your PS3 and wait until January when more PS4 consoles arrive. The system will be around for another few years, at least.
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