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Plugged In

Didn’t pre-order? Here’s how to get an Xbox One or PS4

Plugged In

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(Credit: Microsoft/Sony)

The launch of next-generation consoles generally means one thing: A retail feeding frenzy. And this year, with both the PlayStation 4 (Nov. 15) and the Xbox One (Nov. 22) hitting the market a week apart, it should be especially ferocious.

The best way to ensure you get one was to pre-order, but that ship, for the most part, has sailed. Microsoft says pre-orders for the Xbox One sold out quicker than either of its predecessors, and the PS4 has been red hot since E3. Antsy gamers snatched up pre-order allotments for both systems from sites like Amazon and GameStop.

There's still hope nabbing a launch day system if you haven't reserved yours, though it won't be easy.

Line up

If you're looking to get either system on Day One, your best bet at this point is to plan on camping out. Best Buy, Wal-Mart and other big box retailers will host midnight launch events at multiple locations. (Find out which Best Buy near you will be opening the doors at 12:01am for the PS4 here.)

Even then, showing up is far from a guarantee that you'll walk out with a new system. Retailers have limited supplies, and gaming devotees show up early. For the Wii U launch, one overly dedicated fan waited in line for a month before the system went on sale.

If camping out is definitely in the cards, consider trying a less obvious retailer. Everyone knows Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart and GameStop are going to carry these systems, but other stores, like Sears or Kmart, might not come to mind. Call ahead of time to check availability and find out when they plan to put the systems on sale.

Better yet, if you're lucky enough to live in a city with a Sony or Microsoft retail store, odds are they'll have a fairly large supply of the systems on hand. Those stores are also likely to get resupplied a bit quicker, so it's good to keep them on speed dial if you're unable to secure a unit on launch day.

Hit the internet

Shopping online? That might be easier on the body, but randomly combing the web in hopes of finding a site that has a non-reserved system in stock will drive you mad quickly. And while gaming forums tend to share that information fairly well, that tactic is often unreliable.

Instead, regularly check in with sites that track availability for you. ZooAlert and can both let you know the minute online orders open up. And act fast once you hear about it. They'll sell out in a jiffy.

If you're thinking about getting an Xbox One or PS4 as a holiday gift, that gives you a little more wiggle room. Regardless of what the Day One madness is like, retailers will be certain to have both systems on hand for Black Friday. That's a different level of madness, of course -- and one that's not for rookies -- but if you're willing to break out of your tryptophan-induced coma, forego sleep and brave the crowds, it just might work.

Skip launch day

An easier road to take, though, is to simply pre-order a system for a day other than the launch.

This past Wednesday, Wal-Mart opened up preorders for both the PS4 and Xbox One with guaranteed ship dates of Dec. 16, ensuring delivery before Christmas morning. This even applies to standalone units, not just store created "value bundles" that often include items you'd never consider purchasing.

If all else fails, of course, you can always try your luck at an auction site. These are full of potential pitfalls, though. The odds of being scammed are notably higher -- and you're almost certainly going to pay a premium. Previous system launches have seen prices three and four times higher than the suggested manufacturer's retail price. People who pre-ordered the Xbox One and PS4 are already asking as much as $1,000 for the systems on eBay. It's a last resort, but if you absolutely, positively have to have a next-gen console before the end of the year, that's about the only sure way to get your hands on one.

Just keep in mind that the best time to own a next-gen console isn’t necessarily during its launch window. Both systems and games typically get better with time, as developers learn the ins and outs of the hardware and the console manufacturers patch up firmware holes. There’s no shame in waiting a few months.

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