GameStop storefront just before closing time Selden, N.Y. [Credit: André Lloyd]
(NEW YORK) — Today is the day. After months of rumors, speculation, and breaking news stories, the next video game consoles are a month away, and electronic retailers are preparing to take online preorders. As you anxiously watch the minutes deplete in real-time on the site’s countdown clock, beads of sweat run down your face. It’s game time. You created an account on the retailer’s website. Check. You configured your web browser to pre-populate billing information. Check. Now, you can complete your purchase with ease—or so you thought.
It’s zero seconds from crunch time, but something is wrong. You rapidly click the Preorder button, but the next screen fails to load. Shortly after, the site crashes. Anticipation turns into frustration. When the site finally reloads, the message you feared appears on the product’s page—Sold Out. How can a store sell out of online preorders so quickly? You have now entered scalper territory.
Gamers had reasons to be excited in the month of September. However, things took an unexpected turn. This pre-holiday season, Sony and Microsoft released their next-generation consoles—PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, respectively. But many consumers got pushed out of preordering a console of their choice because scalpers bought them first. As a result, Best Buy, Target, and Amazon all ran out of stock. And because of scalpers buying out most of the merchandise, retailers have been uncertain when the next wave of shipments will arrive.
Many scalpers use eBay to lure buyers and resell the consoles at marked-up prices to make a profit. Purchasing anything off eBay at resale value comes with risks. But parents, for instance, might take that chance out of desperation during the holiday season.
“I told people don’t even bother with the eBay preorders,” said Robert C., store manager at GameStop in Selden, New York. “They don’t guarantee anything, and it’s not under your name anyway.” In other words, if you buy a Gamestop preorder slip off eBay and try to redeem it at the store, proof of identification is required.
Consumers and businesses are growing wiser. PC Magazine reports that computer manufacturer AMD implored vendors to implement safeguards on their sites to prevent scalpers and bots from interfering with new hardware launch sales.
Disgruntled gamers took a stance against scalpers by orchestrating fake bids with no intention of solidifying their offers. This counter-measure could force scalpers to rethink their strategy. But it’s also critical that entities like eBay enforce stricter policies against scalping.