Xbox Series X and PS5 side-by-side

Scalpers spoiling Christmas

With the festive season just around the corner, there is one question on the lips of many gamers…where have all the latest gen consoles gone?

Every few years, the major console manufacturers develop new hardware and wait until just before the Christmas period before they release it, with a view to maximising their initial sales.  Push it out in front of the gaming community a couple of months before Christmas – having spent months ratcheting up the tension with press releases – and you are almost guaranteed to sell all of your stock in record time.  As sale people are apt to say – kerching!!!!

PS5 Resale Prices

This is a process that has worked well for many a product launch but seems to have gone horribly wrong this year.  The launch of both the PS5 and the Xbox X seems to have gone a bit awry.  While they have featured on the Christmas lists of many a gamer, they are just not to be had at the usual outlets or for the advertised price.  But the fault for this apparent glitch lies less with Sony or Microsoft – the manufacturers – but more with middlemen trying to make a quick buck.

The fact is there simply aren’t enough consoles to meet the pre-Christmas demand, and it seems that Bots aren’t helping matters.

Online Vendors Hit by Bots

Due to the pandemic, fewer consumers are visiting physical stores and are relying on digital environments to get their consoles.  And because there are so many people looking to buy over the internet, and that is where the problems arise. It seems that modern day scalpers have got there before them and bought up all the stock.  Investigations have found that much of the stock that was not on pre-order has been snapped up by resellers for selling on through other sites and at a pretty hefty premium too..!

Of course, you would think that ordinary punters would have the same chance of snagging a PS5 as any reseller and that would normally be so but, unfortunately, the resellers were using what might be called underhand tactics.  

It seems that the resellers have equipped themselves with ‘Bots’ usually reserved for data-mining and have turned them into buying machines.  Without the ability to have second thoughts, or have to ask their mum for the credit card, they have been hoovering up PS5’s like there is no tomorrow.

Like some overly-game obsessed Bond villain, resellers have effectively cornered the market on the latest must-have consoles – the Xbox Series X and Series S are suffering just as badly – and are holding us all to ransom.

But are resellers and their Bots the whole story?  Well, possibly not. There is some evidence that the PS5/Xbox launches have been subject to a paper launch, and the goods just weren’t there to start with in the number expected.

Paper Launch Blues

A paper launch is a slang term for what is regarded as an almost virtual launch where only a limited number of actual products or devices are available.  In the last few days, it has become apparent that the launch of the Radeon RX 6800 Series graphics cards has been a classic paper launch, with consumers itching to get their hands on the next-generation graphics cards but actually unable to find them anywhere.  Radeon has been roasted online for the non-launch launch, incurring even more vitriol than GeForce did with their miserable paper launch of the RTX 3080 add-in boards in September.  However, undeniably, the GeForce launch did involve some actual product, but those too were gathered up in seconds by resellers using Bots.

Paper launches have become an industry favourite because it allows the company to get some product out and being tested by real users while minimising risk. The fact that not many people can get their hands on the hardware would usually work in the company’s favour as it gives the illusion that product is so good that stock has been snapped up.  If the company gets promising reviews from the usual suspects in the Gaming Press – that’s us by the way, Radeon, just sayin’ – and there are few reports of the hardware falling over, then they ramp up production to normal levels.  It this a wise move? Well, just look at the failed Microsoft Zune and the pyrophoric Samsung Galaxy Note 7 and their notable mass-launched failures.  Suddenly, limiting what you launch seems to make sense.

Indeed, there are many reports of the first PS5’s having a bunch of issues, with the download queue bug and rest mode crashes getting plenty of air time.  There are reports of cross-gen games (that is, games designed to run on the PS4 and PS5) launching the lesser version on the new hardware. Strange noises within some PS’s has been attributed to ‘coil whine’ and random uninstalling of disc games have also been reported.

Issues like this are bad enough on a launch volume of several thousand units, but imagine if the same happened on a full global launch of several million units.  The potential international bile doesn’t bear thinking about.

I want my PS5

A combination of reseller Bots and paper launch tactics seem to be the main issues with fans not being able to get their hands on the new hardware, and none of them are show stoppers, just irritating.  Who would want to launch an expensive product with the potential for complaints, returns, and potential refunds?

So, where does that leave us gamers looking to get affix of the latest hardware but seemingly unable to get it? Well, they are available…but at an unpalatable price. I can’t go to any of the normal online outlets for high-street stores and get one at the RRP, but I can go to eBay and get a disc-version for £999, or a digital version for around £725 – almost twice the price!

Unless something is done, this is likely to become the future of product launches. Resellers smell potential for making a quick buck and will use technology to hoover up stock, leaving those really wanting them unsatisfied.

We know there’s one more allocation of PS5s coming to the UK this year but the chances of seeing any actually for sale is minimal. Smyths Toys are already advertising that their allocation is gone, for example.

What’s to be done? It’s simple, don’t buy from sellers on eBay.  Leave them with their stock and nowhere to sell it.  If you wait, more stock will arrive at the stores and you’ll get your gaming console for the right price.  Unless we act now, this will just happen again and again, and we, the gaming fans, will be the ones losing out!