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We finally know why Xbox is behind on production

2020 has been a rough year on the gaming industry. Not only did it mark the launch of a new console generation (which can be a strain on companies that want to put their best foot forward), it also hosted a global pandemic that delayed the rollout of games, products, and essential hardware. When a console has to wait for delayed components, production woes are inevitable.

During a recent interview with The Verge's Nilay Patel, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer revealed that Xbox Series X manufacturing lagged behind PlayStation 5 production because Microsoft had to wait for "some specific AMD technology," namely the Radeon RX 6000 Series of AMD RDNA 2 graphics chips. Back in July, AMD's CEO Lisa Su promised the chips would ship on time, but according to Spencer, Microsoft still had to wait longer than Sony. This resulted in a domino effect of tardiness.

"We started in late summer," explained Spencer. "When you do that, then you have to ship them to all the right retailers and distributors. There's a time lag, even when you start and even when they're coming off the assembly line, [until they're] sitting at retail shelves."

While the Xbox Series X and Series S released before PS5, Microsoft didn't reach full production stride until recently. But, according to Spencer, demand outweighed supply. Spencer said that gamers loved the Series X|S so much that they flew off the shelves almost as quickly as they arrived, and Spencer is confident this pattern will continue into the spring.

Moreover, Spencer stated that even though Xbox production has sped up, hopeful Series S owners will have a harder time buying a console than gamers in the mood for a Series X simply because Microsoft is prioritizing the high-end product. Then again, Spencer also claimed demand for the Series X eclipses a need for a Series S, and when audiences clamor for one product, a company is obligated to satisfy those needs over less-popular alternatives. As such, Xbox built more Series X consoles than Series S. 

To be fair, Spencer explained that he hopes to rebalance the Series X-to-Series S manufacturing ratio in either spring or summer of 2021, but during this holiday season — as well as next year's holidays — Microsoft will focus on the Series X because "price wins out." That's just how business works.

During this month's GlitchCon, Spencer apologized for Xbox console shortages. Many disgruntled gamers asked him to speed up production, but as he explained during the recent Verge interview, Microsoft is already manufacturing at max capacity. Despite the company's best efforts, it simply can't keep up with demand because it was hobbled from the start.