Six Scottish National Party tabled an Early Day Motion on Monday, calling for legislative proposals “prohibiting the resale of gaming consoles and computer components at prices greatly above Manufacturer’s Recommended Retail Price.”
Early Day Motions are motions tabled by Members of Parliament that formally call for debate in the House to draw attention to particular subjects of interest.
Monday’s motion, which has so far been signed by a total of 15 Members of Parliament, also calls on the UK government to make the resale of goods purchased using automated bots – software favoured by scalpers to circumvent retail queues – an illegal activity.
The MPs suggest implementing legislative proposals similar to those introduced for the secondary selling of tickets, which require resellers to be transparent in regards to their identity and details of seating.
The motion states: “new releases of gaming consoles and computer components should be available to all customers at no more than the Manufacturer’s Recommended Retail Price, and not be bought in bulk by the use of automated bots which often circumvent maximum purchase quantities imposed by the retailer”.
PlayStation 5 at retail
It says that action banning bots would “[deny] unscrupulous vendors the chance to make themselves vast profits at the expense of genuine gamers and computer users, while also deterring fraudulent cybercriminal activity.”
With PS5 and Xbox Series X/S availability failing to satisfy launch demand, next-gen console scalpers have sought to cash in over the past month by selling them at extortionate prices on marketplaces like eBay, where a significant number of consoles have been sold for more than double their retail price.
A recent study suggested that so-called “scalpers” have made over $28 million in next-gen console profits through auction site eBay.
According to analysis conducted by data engineer Michael Driscoll, the median selling price for Xbox Series S (MSRP $300) on eBay was $469 and for the more powerful Xbox Series X (MSRP $499) it was $865, generating over $9 million in profits for resellers.
PS5 Digital Edition (MSRP $399) had a median selling price of $937, while PS5 (MSRP $499) had a median selling price of $1,021, generating $19 million in profits for resellers.
It’s been suggested that PS5 and Xbox Series X/S shortages are being partly driven by scalper groups using software to automatically buy consoles as they come in stock.
The bots work by automatically notifying users when PS5s come in stock at retailers, before circumventing any wait times, adding items to their cart and then completing the checkout process, giving users a huge advantage over regular consumers.
These kinds of tools aren’t new: collectors of sneakers and tickets sometimes use automated tools for identifying restocks. However, gaming’s sharp rise in popularity during the pandemic has reportedly seen bots specifically used to target consoles such as Nintendo Switch.
Xbox Series X/S at retail
- Buy Xbox Series X at Walmart (US)
- Buy Xbox Series S at Walmart (US)
- Buy Xbox Series X/S at Best Buy (US)
Websites often try to block automated buyers like these but bot designers have avoided mitigations by routing traffic through various other computers before ordering items.
One group said to be using automated bots, CrepChiefNotify, claims to have obtained over 5,000 next-gen consoles to resell for profit over the past month.
Unsurprisingly, CrepCheifNotify has attracted negative comments from consumers struggling to obtain PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles.
However, in a recent statement issued by the group, it defended its actions and claimed that many of its members were struggling financially but could now “put food on the table” thanks to console profits.
“Lots of our community have been furloughed, made redundant, or at some form of disadvantage due the pandemic,” it said.
“These people have managed to cover their bills, put food on the table and supply Christmas presents to their children.
“It may be unfortunate that a child won’t wake up to a PS5 this Christmas, but another child may have woken up to nothing. We have no regrets.”
Demand for both PS5 and Xbox Series X/S is expected to outstrip supply for the foreseeable future, with Xbox head Phil Spencer recently suggesting Xbox Series X/S shortages will continue into spring 2021.