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OPINION

Scalpers are making it more difficult to purchase new consoles

Dusty Ricketts
Northwest Florida Daily News

Like with any in-demand item, finding a new video game console at launch or soon after is difficult. It always has been.

The Nintendo Wii was extremely hard to find its first six months on the market, and systems like the PlayStation 2 and 4 and Nintendo Switch also saw large shortages. While past systems have been difficult to get early in their life cycles, trying to get your hands on a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X/S have been even more challenging.

Dusty Ricketts

Part of this is because of the normal supply and demand issues every console faces when it first comes out. There are just a lot more people trying to buy the systems than Sony and Microsoft are able to produce.

An issue that has become a lot bigger this time around is scalpers. People buying systems to resell to others at a higher price is nothing new. The big issue now is their technology is better than ever.

Because of the ongoing pandemic, the new systems are primarily only available online and not in stores at the moment. Today's scalpers have programmed bots to buy large numbers of the new systems under different accounts at one time to get past most stores' one-system-per-customer policy. 

The markups the scalpers are charging have been outrageous. eBay prices for the PlayStation 5 disc version (suggested retail price of $500) ranged from $850 to $1,400 on Wednesday. For the Xbox Series X (suggested retail price also $500) prices ranged from $730 to $1,000.

The funny thing is, these scalpers don't understand why they have such a horrible reputation.

“There seems to be A LOT of bad press on this incredibly valuable industry, and I do not feel that it is justified. All we are acting as is a middleman for limited quantity items,” Jordan, who co-founded The Lab, a British group that advises paying users how to scalp, said in an interview with Forbes. “Essentially, every business resells their products. Tesco, for example, buys milk from farmers for 26p or so per litre and sells it on for upwards of 70p per litre. No one ever seems to complain to the extent as they are currently doing towards ourselves.”

What Jordan is ignoring is that scalpers are not middlemen. Businesses like Amazon, Target, Walmart and GameStop are the middlemen, and they're selling the systems for Sony and Microsoft's recommended retail price. They're not gauging customers by trying to get outrageous profits on one sale.

Businesses are trying to combat this. TechSpot reported recently that Walmart's preventive security measures blocked 20 million bot attempts to purchase the PlayStation 5 in just the first 30 minutes the system went on sale. 

In Europe, there's actually legislation being proposed that would force all retailers to sell gaming consoles and computer components at the manufactures' suggested retail price and make the resale of those items purchased by bots illegal. Unfortunately, that legislation is unlikely to pass.

Dusty Ricketts can be reached at dricketts@thedestinlog.com. He is currently playing "Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury" and "Control: Ultimate Edition." You can find him to play online through his PlayStation Network ID: DustRAG316.