Christmas is coming, and if you want an Xbox One under the tree, your options are slim. Online retailers are back-ordered indefinitely, and most big-box stores are a crapshoot. Still, if you're willing to do a little legwork and potentially dish out some extra cash, an Xbox One can still be yours well before Dec. 25.
First, if you have time to shop around in person, do it. Big-box retail stores like Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy have very changeable stocks, and they unpack shipments at odd intervals throughout the day. You can call them incessantly (you shouldn't, out of respect for both their time and your own), but you might just luck out if you take a stroll through one during a lunch hour or early afternoon.
That said, if you want to direct your time a little more efficiently, there are three places you should check right away: indie game stores, GameStop stores and Microsoft Stores.
Not every area has an indie game store, but if you live near a major city, there are probably a few within driving or public transportation distance. New York City, for example, has the GameChamp chain, while Baltimore has a handful of Power Gamer stores.
Indie game stores get small shipments of new consoles at irregular intervals, but their stock is so unreliable that they can't promise it to anyone. Because the stores only have a few employees and close relationships with suppliers, you can usually ask when their next shipment is coming in and call to confirm on that day. They may even hold an Xbox One for you if you give them a credit card number.
GameStop may seem like an obvious place to buy a console, yet people often view it as a last resort rather than a first option. For whatever reason, many consumers would rather buy consoles at big-box retailers and games at GameStop. Their preference can work to your advantage.
There's no guarantee that your local GameStop has an Xbox One, but if it doesn't, its employees may know of another store nearby that still has the console in stock. If that fails, Gamestop.com is selling Xbox One bundles that will ship out Dec. 16. Keep in mind, though, that you will be gouged: the bundle is $740, and includes three games ("Ryse: Son of Rome," "Forza Motorsport 5" and "Dead Rising 3") and an extra controller, with no option to buy the console by itself.
The Microsoft Store may seem like a logical place to buy the Xbox One, and yet story after story reports that consumers generally ignore Microsoft Stores in malls in favor of their more popular inspiration, the Apple Store. There are a few dozen Microsoft Stores scattered across the U.S. and Canada, most often in malls in major cities.
Microsoft Stores sell Windows PCs, Surface tablets and Xbox consoles, and by all indications, the Xbox One stock is high across the board. These retail establishments are not as widespread as Apple Stores, but if you have one in your area, it may have more Xbox Ones than it knows what to do with.
One final alternative, for those not averse to bundles, is the Toys "R" Us website. Although venturing into a brick-and-mortar Toys "R" Us this time of year requires as much bravery and foolhardiness as invading Russia in the winter, the website has Xbox One bundles ready to ship for $620, which include a game and a controller.
Whatever you do, don't use eBay. Prices on consoles are massively inflated, and scams are rampant. That $800 Xbox One may arrive in time for Christmas, but it won't seem like such a great deal when $500 Xbox Ones flood the market in January.
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