As we get closer to Christmas, gamers and parents across the globe are getting desperate in their search for a PS5 console. Anyone who has tried to purchase one online has experienced the wrath of scalper-led bots, which continue to take the lions share of inventory!
Well, any thought or prayer that big box retailers like Target Or Walmart would make changes to their online purchase process for this years hottest gift were quickly dashed during the last week of online console releases.
If you were to truly immerse yourself into the world of gaming and the search for the coveted PS5 gaming system, you would probably be shocked to learn not only how much time and effort is required to give you a chance to get your hands on one, but how unfair it is that scalpers have been given free reign to take whatever they want. Recent reports in the news have followed large groups of scalpers that have banded together to purchase thousands of consoles to be resold at 2-3x their retail value.
in scenes that are closer to that of a movie, like the classic 90's holiday hit "Jingle All the Way," people all over the world are spending hours upon hours scheming on ways to get a PS5 in time for Christmas only to be left disappointed and empty handed time and again
I will say that big box retailers like Target and Walmart are probably totally unprepared for something like a group of professional scalpers continually stealing all their PS5 inventory, however its not like they only did it once! Problems with bots flooding websites and leaving customers empty handed has been happening on hot ticket item releases for years and retailers have had multiple chances to correct it.
One aspect that is not frequently enough mentioned is that while these consoles are quite expensive, the revenue generated from their sales pales in comparison to those of everyday purchases like household items, groceries and everything else you could imagine. That being said, the fact that PS5 and Xbox are not huge avenues to revenue for retailers like Walmart, the damage that is done to their reputation in the eyes of the consumer could be long lasting and any attempt to stop this theft should be corrected immediately.
For reference, let's go over some examples of these recent online releases so you can get a better idea of how widespread these issues are now.
The Walmart Dumpster Fire
On November 27th, Walmart conducted an online release for both Playstation 5 Standard edition and Playstation 5 Digital Edition. This was not random as the company began advertising it while promoting other Black Friday sales. By posting on its social media accounts, Walmart informed its customer base that it would release more PS5 consoles at 3pm EST and the sale would go until supplies were exhausted (note: they did say "quantities are limited").
Once news of the impending release hit the gaming community, people began scheming ways to make sure they would be one of the lucky new console owners. Some people strategized about ways to camp out on the website, continuously refreshing the page every couple minutes until sales began, while other tech savvy users devoted time to writing programs that would sound an alarm as soon as any changes were made to a websites product page. No matter what strategy you chose, most seasoned gamers knew it was going to be a long shot.
What most didn't know at the time was just how professional and organized these international groups of scalpers actually were and how big of an impact their bots would have on these holiday releases.
Fast forward to the day of the release. Chat communities on Reddit and social media accounts all over the internet were talking about the PS5 release. Excited gamers and hopeful kids had their online accounts managed to perfection, credit cards saved, and atomic clocks at the ready. Remember, the sale was slated to begin at 3pm EST.
As the minutes ticked closer to 3pm, reports of Walmart's website starting to act up began surfacing on Twitter. It wouldn't be wrong to attribute that to the fact that an enormous amount of traffic was flooding their site, meaning no bots yet. One minute out and people began feverishly refreshing the product page, remembering back on all the tips given for success.
And then it happened. The clock finally struck 3pm and eager gamers all over the world began to twitch with anticipation being so so close to finally securing the coveted gaming system. To the surprise of everyone, including myself, and excluding all the scalpers out there, the Sony PS5 immediately showed as OUT OF STOCK. Obviously, the overload on the website caused a slowdown delaying the release and it would be available any second, right? Wrong. For the overwhelming majority waiting to make a purchase, those three words would be the farthest they got in the process that day.
Somehow, some way, most people never even saw the product go to in stock status, and moments later was listed as "unavailable or on backorder." By 3:01pm, news of the instant sellout began flooding the internet, while most people were still disillusioned and left trying to magically add the PS5 to their carts, but it was too late.
i wish this story was just a story but its not. It's a totally accurate portrayal of the events of that release because I participated in it and know many people that had the same result.
It is hard to really describe just how upset and angry consumers across the country were at the end of that release, but i will try. Countless posts on social media showed how dismayed people were at the instant sellout, most of whom believe there was a vast conspiracy against them to prevent PS5s from becoming their new lockdown approved toy. The truth is that they are right. It was a highly coordinated, professional attack on gamers and parents everywhere.
Within a half hour of the release ending there were dozens of new listings for PS5 consoles on reseller websites like Ebay and Offerup, making it clear that once again scalpers had their way with the gaming community. If you still had any doubt, an investigative report that aired shortly after, profiled a large group of international scalpers that claimed to have purchases more than 3,500 units. We aren't talking about peanuts here, that is close to $2,000,000 in merchandise that these people plan to use to take advantage of desperate parents at Christmas.
Making it even worse, these people don't even pay taxes yet they are earning more money than most brick and mortar retailers in this COVID stricken world.
There Is Hope
Despite the fact that this entire release has been a large dumpster fire, perpetrated by Japanese conglomerate Sony, there is a silver lining.
It turns out that some big box retailers have learned a lesson and intended to make things more fair moving forward. We saw the first example of this from electronic giant Best Buy.
During the last online release on Best Buy's website, customers were pleasantly surprised to find that several steps had been added to the purchase process, in an effort to combat bots and scalpers.
After successfully adding a console to their cart, users were required to wait several minutes while Best Buy sent out a verification code via email or text, which you would then have to input in order to checkout. While this might not seem all that great, these are things that computer generated bots can't do without human intervention.
The result of their effort was a website that didn't crash, a purchase process that was smooth and organized, and the satisfaction of knowing that scalpers attempts to ruin the holiday season had been thwarted by the ingenuity of Best Buy.
Where Do We Go From Here?
As we approach the last few weeks before Christmas, there are still many people empty handed looking to add a PS5 to their list of gifts for the holiday. Luckily, it seems as if more progress has been made by retailers looking to stop scalpers in their tracks.
Recent reports show that Target and Walmart have tweaked their purchase process to end delivering consoles from online purchases. Moving forward, customers will have to buy a console from a location near them inventory which is then made ready for local in-store pickup only.
This is great news because it further disrupts the organization of scalper groups and also puts more consoles in the hands of regular people who deserve them. As the number of people that need a PS5 dwindle, so does the ability of a reseller to take advantage of someone looking for a last minute gift.
If you are still looking for a PS5, or Xbox Series X, I am here to tell you that there is still time and with these new purchase rules discussed above, your chances of getting lucky and taking one is much greater than ever.
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