The ongoing shortage of Xbox and PlayStation consoles has been a thing of the past since these platforms were launched in November. The shortcoming is not unique to console games – there are hardware availability issues on both PCs and consoles, since recently launched GPUs from Nvidia and AMD are still difficult to find, as are AMD’s Ryzen 5000 processors.
According to Xbox CEO Phil Spencer, the company has been asking questions related to Xbox production for several weeks.
“I get some people [asking], ‘why did you not build more? Why did you not start earlier? Why did you not send them earlier? “All these things,” Spencer said in a Major Nelson podcast, which VGC discovered.
“It’s really just physics and engineering. We do not hold them back: we build them as fast as we can. We have all the assembly lines in place. I was on the phone last week with Lisa Su at AMD [asking], ‘how do we get more?’ So it’s something we’re constantly working on. ”
I would not say that there is nothing AMD can do to improve the situation for Microsoft, but the company’s ability to change the situation is probably limited. AMD’s commitment to the chip is limited to designing it – the actual job of producing and shipping it in sufficient volume is done by TSMC.
There may actually be some buttons and rings over which AMD has some indirect control, or it may be able to work with TSMC to improve the yield if a certain number of Xbox Series X | S SoCs only are barely missing specification. Small adjustments to improve yield and performance are common. From mid-mid to mid-2010, it was not uncommon to see AMD or Intel introduce a newer variant of an older chip, but with a lower TDP compared to what they had sent right out the door. These improvements reflected low-end optimizations.
But while AMD may be able to increase Xbox production by reducing orders in other 7nm product families, the company will be limited by how much 7nm capacity TSMC has. Last autumn, several reports indicated that TSMC would be able to build 140,000 7 nm waffles per month by the end of 2020. In the first half of 2020, TSMC’s WPM (waffles per month) was estimated at 110,000. This means that the company increased the capacity of 7 nm by 1.27 times throughout the year.
It has obviously not been enough, and Nvidia’s decision to build with Samsung on 8N instead of tapping TSMC’s 7nm, has not been enough to save Ampere. Nvidia is currently expected to move to TSMC 7nm for further Ampere production in 2021, which could put even more pressure on the situation.
Relief can come in the form of reductions in 7 nm mobile demand when companies go over to 5 nm. So far, a number of companies have asked consumers to expect better product availability after the March – April 2021 time frame, which may reflect everything from new capacity coming online, to improved returns, to reduced utilization of 7 nm when the companies switch to 5 nm. It may even be that companies predict reduced closure levels at this point, which may lead to weaker demand, especially in the short term. When people can leave the house safely again, we will probably see that expenses flow out of video games and home entertainment and back to other types of leisure, although the pandemic creates a long-term increase in the number of people buying consoles, subscribing to streaming services, or working from home.
The best data we have about the relative performance of the two console manufacturers comes from VGChartz. They have compiled their sales estimates for the first six weeks since launch (Switch data is tailored to launch, not current sales). The results are not particularly good for Microsoft, although we warn that only a very limited amount of data can be retrieved from the first six weeks, especially at a time when console sales are still limited. All indications are that Microsoft and Sony will continue to sell all the consoles they can make.
US sales are a better story for Microsoft. Mens Xbox Series S | X is still lower than PlayStation 5, they go off by about 30 percent, not nearly 50 percent. This is also the one region where the Xbox actually beats the Switch when it comes to worldwide sales. Everywhere else, Switch leads, including Japan.
So far, evidence shows that the PlayStation 5 strongly outsells the Xbox series (both tastes) globally, with tighter (but still Sony-favored) competition in the US. Whether AMD can do something to put more console SoCs in the hands of its partners is unknown. Wasn’t PlayStation 5 also facing the severe supply constraints?