Seconds before noon Monday, Jake Randall began encouraging people watching his live stream on YouTube to start refreshing the Walmart website on their computers.
In his bid, thousands of people across the country began slamming keys, josling their way to the front of the retailer’s virtual store for the hottest gift of the holiday season: a machine play video games. To increase their odds, Mr. Randall recommended that the 8,000 people watching his live stream also line up through Walmart’s app on their phones. As the minutes passed, a lucky few sent Mr. Randall screenshots of their purchases. Some sent him donations — about $2,000 in total — as thanks for his help. Others were unsuccessful. In an hour, all the consoles were sold out.
Long lines outside retail stores turned into brawls, desperate shoppers refreshing websites to sidestep bots and a cottage industry of the likes of Randall on business tips and making money in the area. process – such is the state of the video game console market a year after a new generation of widely popular devices was released during the height of the pandemic. Microsoft’s Xbox Series X, with a list price of $499, and Sony’s PlayStation 5, $399, come with the game’s popularity skyrocketing with people stuck indoors and they’re already in high demand and supply has been in short supply ever since.
Now, with the holiday shopping season in full swing, those same consoles are still a must-have on many wish lists. The result is fierce competition, both from other players and from those who buy as much equipment as possible – sometimes using so-called buying bots to get them faster than a human can – and then resell them for double or even triple the purchase price on sites like eBay or Facebook Marketplace.
“I grew up playing video games. Everyone wants to be a video game hero,” said Matt Swider, who quit his job as a journalist last month and is now sitting in his apartment in New York City, furiously scanning web pages for submissions. Notify on Twitter to his followers whenever retailers have a dashboard for sale. “The villains in this story are resellers using bots both in person and online.”
Buying a console this season is proving particularly difficult this year. Taking a page from Amazon, retailers like Best Buy, Walmart, and GameStop, in many cases, offer the first console to people who pay to join their membership programs. Even so, paying around $200 a year to Best Buy for a subscription isn’t a guarantee that shoppers will get the console. So on top of that, customers are following people on YouTube, Twitter, Twitch, and Discord for hints and updates on what stores might have items in stock, or when a dashboard might suddenly turn up. available on a website for purchase. Then it becomes a race to beat the bots.
For months, Victoria Garza, a 23-year-old medical student in Harlingen, Texas, has been working frantically in search of her prize: a limited-edition Halo-themed Xbox. She keeps an eye on channels on Discord, and accounts on Twitter notify her when consoles are in stock. She provided her parents with her credit card information so they could buy an Xbox for her if she went to work when the console became available. Her father even drives to a local GameStop every morning to check if anyone is there when the store opens.
Frustration over her so far fruitless pursuit of the panel is growing, she said. If it did, she said, “I would start crying on the spot.”
While it’s normal for consoles to be elusive when they’re first released, the scarcity seen over the past year is anything but. The problems stemmed from well-documented global supply chain problems caused by the pandemic, making the computer chips of many devices difficult to use.
“We are working as quickly as possible with our manufacturing and retail partners to accelerate production and shipping to meet unprecedented demand,” Microsoft said in a statement. It declined to comment on how many consoles it has sold so far.
Sony declined to comment on demand issues, referring instead to recent blog post by Jim Ryan, the company’s chief executive officer, in which he admits that “inventory constraints remain a cause of frustration for many of our customers”.
“Rest assured that we are focused on doing everything in our power to ship as many units as possible,” Ryan wrote. Sony said in a quarterly earnings report in September that it has sold 13.4 million PlayStation 5s units since it was released in November 2020.
David Gibson, senior analyst at Australia-based financial services firm MST Financial, estimates that by the end of this year, Sony will have shipped 19 million consoles since the PlayStation 5 was released, and Microsoft increased by about 11 million to 12 million. part by released its flagship game, Halo. But he said both companies could have sold more if the pandemic hadn’t affected global supply chains. The console market won’t be able to catch up to demand until the end of 2022, he said.
Shortly after the PlayStation 5 was first released, Mr. Swider, then editor-in-chief of TechRadar, an American technology review and recommendation website, was frustrated in his attempt to buy one. So he started tracking and tweeting when he found consoles for sale.
He started getting advice from employees inside retailers like Best Buy and Walmart when a consignment of game consoles arrived at individual stores or regional warehouses. At the end of last year, he had 21,000 followers on his Twitter account; now he has more than a million.
He estimates that he has helped more than 130,000 people get a panel this year. In return, he hopes to make money by charging people $5 a month to sign up for his new Substack newsletter, called “Shortcuts,” which will offer tech recommendations and tips on how to find the control panel or other electronic devices. When his followers use his links to purchase items on various retailer websites, he may earn a commission, known as an “affiliate fee” on the website. those sales.
Another retailer, Mr Randall, said he doesn’t make money from commissions, but from his hour-long live streams on YouTube, which provide suggestions for when retailers might be able to. panel release, tips and tricks on how to buy one. Mr. Randall, who can’t do a normal job because he has cystic fibrosis, said streams don’t just help frustrated parents or gamers afford hot consoles.
“I don’t cure the disease, but given my limitations because of cystic fibrosis, helping people get gaming consoles and be happy is something I can do and it means a lot to me,” said Randall. , 30 years old, live streamer. out of my studio apartment in Nashua, NH “When I go live, I get a lot of love and support from the whole community.”
About last week, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, there wasn’t much activity for many of these people, as retailers hadn’t sold consoles for months. offer thousands of units for sale. On Discord servers and on Twitter, posts filled with the language of the community popped up at all times of the day and night, alerting shoppers when there was a “discount” (many of which were available for purchase). for sale) Xbox or cheer with excitement when someone has “copped” (purchased) a PlayStation 5.
Mr. Randall has started streaming at 6am each day, waiting for what he expects will be a big console sale from Target one morning. Based on information he’s received from employees inside the company — including inventory scan screenshots — he believes Target is sitting on a mountain of dashboards. (Target didn’t directly respond to a question about their dashboard offering, but they did provide some as of Thursday morning.)
Some gamers have used the trick successfully.
Jeff Mahoney, 38, of Katy, Texas, said he bought at least five PlayStations and two Xboxes by following the Discord channel run by “Lord Restock,” who is actually a 21-year-old philosophy student at the University of Tampa, person, when contacted, requested anonymity because he did not want to be targeted by resellers online. After buying a PlayStation for himself, Mr Mahoney, who now works at accounting firm KPMG, said he was able to buy other devices for neighbors who wanted holiday gifts for their children. .
“I thought, ‘Hey, you’re not going to go out and pay $800 for some people to use bots and make other people’s lives miserable,’” he said. “I’m just here to help.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/02/business/video-game-consoles-scalpers.html Hard to find PlayStations and Xboxes. Meet people who are trying to help.