Getting an Xbox Series X — like getting a PS5 — is currently a fraught process. Not only will you be competing against thousands of other desperate customers, but you’ll be at a significant disadvantage against an army of greedy scalpers and their sophisticated bots.
Still, I managed to do it — a holiday present was at stake — and I learned a very important lesson along the way: Set up your payment information in advance. Here’s how I beat the odds to get an Xbox Series X at Walmart and how you can do the same.
My Xbox Series X mission
I’ve had the Xbox Series X for a little more than a month now, and it is indeed a beautiful console with a fantastic game library. Whether you really need one instead of an Xbox One (or an Xbox One X) is a fair question, but I think it’s a great purchase, whether you make it now or in a few months.
However, console purchases can’t always wait a few months, especially when the holidays are upon us. Yesterday morning (December 17), my partner got a phone call with an urgent mission: Her cousin wanted an Xbox Series X, and knew that tracking one down within the next week would be nothing short of a Christmas miracle. Was there any way that I could help him out?
First, I should come clean: Apart from receiving review units, tech journalists don’t have any kind of special access to next-gen consoles. If I wanted to buy an Xbox Series X, my chances were exactly as good as everyone else’s — and thanks to huge organic demand on top of ruthless scalpers, those chances are pretty minimal at the moment.
That was when Louis Ramirez came to my rescue. Louis is a group senior editor for deals, although perhaps “senior wizard” would be more accurate. No one has a better nose when it comes to console restocks, and he mentioned that Walmart would get one at 3 p.m. ET. Walmart has taken some anti-scalper measures recently, and I at least had to try.
Walmart Xbox Series X restock
Xbox Series X: $499 at Walmart
The Xbox Series X is Microsoft’s new flagship console. It features 12 teraflops of graphics power, 16GB of RAM, 1TB SSD, and Blu-ray drive. It runs games at 4K resolution and 60 frames per second with a max of 8K at 120 fps. The Editor’s Choice console represents the pinnacle of Microsoft’s gaming efforts. View Deal
Xbox Series S: $299 at Walmart
The Xbox Series S is a less expensive and less powerful version of the Xbox Series X. The Series S has a GPU with up to 4 teraflops of output, 10GB of RAM, 512 GB SSD storage, and no disc drive. It has a max resolution of 1440p with 120 fps.View Deal
Work quickly to secure a console
At 3 p.m., I was ready, with my finger on the F5 and my cursor on the spot where “Add to Cart” would show up. I refreshed Walmart’s Xbox Series X page and saw the promised blue button appear. I clicked “Add to Cart” — and was greeted with a message that the item had sold out between the time I refreshed the page and clicked my mouse. All in all, the 3 p.m. shipment was in stock for a little less than 10 seconds.
Undeterred, I decided I would try again at 3:10 p.m., as Walmart intended to sell the Xbox Series X in three batches, each 10 minutes apart. This time, I told myself, I’d be ready. As my computer’s clock struck 3:09:55, I hit F5; at 3:10 on the dot, I hit “Add to Cart.” This time, I was successful. There was an Xbox Series X in my shopping cart. All I had to do was fill in my shipping and payment information.
This took a little bit longer than anticipated, since I was shipping the console to a totally new address, but laying out the money with my own credit card, tied to my home address. Still, I reasoned that I was already on the payment page; my console was secure.
My console was not secure, as I learned a few minutes later when I tried to confirm my order. While I’d been double-checking the cousin’s address, Walmart had sold the Xbox to another customer. I can only hope that it was a real person who’ll be excited to get it, and not an unscrupulous reseller.
I had one last chance at 3:20 p.m., but this time, I was ready. I had the cousin’s address saved in my Walmart profile, as well as my own billing address and credit card information. When the availability window rolled around, I clicked “Add to Cart,” followed immediately by “Proceed to checkout.” I confirmed the order, and got a receipt via e-mail a few minutes later.
A Christmas conundrum
By saving the shipping and billing information in advance, I’d saved myself precious seconds in the checkout process. And those seconds are indeed precious — the entire Xbox Series X shipment sold out in less than a minute during each brief availability window.
I don’t know whether other retailers will save your item if you take a long time filling out checkout information, but there’s no need to take that risk. If you know a retailer will be getting a console shipment, fill out all relevant account details in advance. At best, it could help you nab a system; at worst, it’ll save you a step anyway.
The only issue with Walmart’s current round of Xbox Series X shipments is that they won’t arrive until January 12. While I don’t celebrate Christmas, I’m given to understand that getting a Christmas gift three weeks after the holiday isn’t an ideal situation. Even so, while we expect the console supply chain to stabilize in early 2021, it’s hard to say whether this will happen in January, March, or even later. Having an Xbox guaranteed for January delivery is a far sight better than having no Xbox at all.
My advice for console-hunters is the same as before: Hold off for now, and play through your current-gen backlog if you can. (Remember: the Xbox Series X doesn’t have any true exclusive games at the moment. Your PC or Xbox One will suffice just fine in the meantime.) But if you’re still committed to trying your luck in the retailer lottery, have an account ready with shipment and billing information ready to go. It may just be the difference between getting a console and walking away empty-handed.