The $399, disc-drive-free Digital Edition of the PlayStation 5 may be in much shorter supply at US retailers this holiday season than the $499 version with a standard disc drive. That's based on an Ars Technica analysis of PS5 preorder hardware allocations this week at GameStop locations across the country.
Ars was able to confirm the initial PS5 preorder allocations for nine separate GameStop locations. All told, roughly 24 percent of the stock available at these locations was taken up by the Digital Edition, with the remaining 76 percent for the Standard Edition.
The Digital Edition ratios at individual locations ranged from 13 to 33 percent of all the available PS5 preorders, with 20 percent being the most common ratio. Each individual GameStop location in our sample received anywhere from 15 to 30 PS5 units total, with 20 being the most common number.
While this handful of stores doesn't exactly represent a scientific retail survey, the story is consistent enough across multiple locations in multiple geographic areas to suggest a nationwide trend. And while we weren't able to confirm allotments at other retailers on the record, Ars Technica has confirmed with well-placed sources familiar with at least one other retailer about similar PS5 Digital Edition allotment ratios there.
The numbers reported here reflect the initial preorder supply of available PlayStation 5 units at these stores; it's not necessarily the relative demand for either type of system. All the stores Ars talked to sold out of their initial PS5 preorder allotments within minutes, so it's hard to determine how demand for either option aligns with these supply numbers. However, we have heard some anecdotal reports of preorder customers seeking the Digital Edition but settling for the more expensive Standard Edition when the former was sold out.
Does Sony want to make them?
Neither GameStop nor Sony has responded to an Ars Technica request for comment as of press time, so we're left speculating a bit on the reasons behind the apparent dearth of Digital Edition consoles thus far.
One possibility is that Sony's initial allotment of PS5 units is simply skewed toward the Standard Edition across the board. That could reflect Sony's belief that demand for the cheaper system is lower overall and that the majority of PS5 buyers is willing to invest extra money in a disc drive. Failing that, it could reflect a belief that early adopters specifically are willing to spend more money on the "full-fledged" version of the system, while more price-conscious shoppers are more willing to wait for the launch fervor to die down before buying the Digital Edition.
A lack of Digital Edition consoles could also reflect a desire by Sony to maximize hardware revenue at launch. Since the disc drive assembly in the system likely costs much less than $100 for Sony to produce, the Standard Edition likely brings in better profit margins. A Digital Edition sale might be worth more to Sony in the long run, though, as software sales to those customers will avoid any cut to retailers.