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Scalpers are jerks. What’s new?

It’s been a few months since the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X were formally released to the public and it’s safe to say the rollout of the consoles was not expected. Then again, Sony and Microsoft, respectively, did release the next-generation consoles during a pandemic so gamers having difficulty procuring a console makes sense.

But what makes things even more difficult is the fact that scalpers have been essentially stealing consoles from people who want them and upscaling prices by hundreds of dollars. We all know scalpers are jerks but what’s new?

Better yet, here’s a more intriguing question: what can we do?

Quick background on me: I have been an Xbox gamer for most of my life. Though I was initially a PlayStation (PS) kid – having played the original PlayStation, owning the PS1 and having multiple versions of the PS2 – once the original Xbox 360 came out, we bought it almost immediately. 

I remember owning multiple Xbox 360s because of the infamous “Red Ring of Death.” That never deterred me as I stayed loyal to the Xbox 360 since the alternative was the $600 USD PS3.

Nevertheless, I was fortunate enough to be in the position to either send the Xbox back to Microsoft or, if that was not available, I would not have to wait long to get a new console. Regardless of the situation, I just remember it being extremely easy to get an Xbox. 

Even when the Xbox One first came out, it was easy to get my hands on it. I recall my brother and I going to a nearby Best Buy, talking to an associate, getting an Xbox One bundle with Assassin’s Creed: Unity and buying it. Simple as that. 

(Quick Note: I still have and play that same Xbox One. It surprisingly has not failed me yet.)

Fast forward almost a decade later and it seems that only a select few – comparatively speaking – have been able to legitimately get their hands on the PS5 or Xbox Series X. Again, while it makes sense for consoles to be hard to get during a pandemic, because of finances and other factors, scalpers exacerbate the issue. 

For those out of the loop, scalpers purchase a store’s entire stock of a console and resell them at an exorbitant price. For instance, the standard edition PS5 is selling for more than $700 on eBay and StockX.

Typically, these scalpers have bots, or programs that allow them to input credit card and other information in milliseconds, to aid them. As a result, when GameStop and Best Buy restock, consumers who actually want a console will not get one because of the aforementioned scalpers. This issue is made even more egregious when a scalper bragged about getting 2,000 PS5s.

The issue has gotten so out of hand that UK government officials have begun targeting the scalpers. Whether any useful legislation gets passed remains to be seen, but at least the effort is there. 

With the video game industry bringing in almost $180 billion in a pandemic-ravaged year, it is becoming clear that the video game industry is the next big thing. But scalpers being jerks is nothing new. 

Additionally, along with being a gamer, I am also a sneakerhead so I get the issue of scalpers. It is innumerable how many times I have woken up early to prepare myself for a sneaker release, only for me to be kicked to the curb by bots operated by scalpers and see the sneaker sell out in milliseconds. 

I am not exaggerating when I say milliseconds. I was observing the recent release of the Air Jordan V Low “Chinese New Year” colorway on Nike’s “SNKRS” app and once the clock hit 7 AM PT – the usual time for releases – the button went from “Notify Me” to “Sold Out.”

The sneaker in question. Screenshot courtesy of StockX.

As such, whenever I see a restock of next-gen consoles, I don’t even bother. I know I have no shot in competing with literal machines, so why try? If I – a loyal Xbox player – stopped caring about the new console’s release, then many others are probably feeling the same thing.

Therein lies the issue with scalpers: because of their actions and the companies inaction, longtime players are being alienated from their ecosystems. So what can be done? 

The UK government took the first steps in acknowledging that scalpers were a big issue. The next steps should be making sure each storefront has an authentication system bots cannot circumvent. Of course that’s easier said than done, but something has to be done. 

With scalpers running rampant, I am not expecting to get any of the new consoles anytime soon. Judging by how everything has gone, it seems that many other gamers are in the same position and properly dealing with the FOMO. Who knows, maybe this might have caused some gamers to fall out of gaming altogether. 

Whatever the case may be, the message is clear: Blame the scalpers. They are ruining the gaming space for everyone who wants a new console to enjoy during these trying times. 

Then again, what’s new?

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