On Monday, December 14, politicians in the United Kingdom put forth a motion to ban increasingly unpopular scalpers and automated bots. This early day motion focuses specifically on the sale of gaming consoles and computer components.
Early day motions are typically concise, single sentence declarations that aim to draw attention to specific issues. At this time, 10 members of the Scottish National Party have put forth their signature in support of the motion.
Sponsors of the motion seek to create legislation "prohibiting the resale of gaming consoles and computer components at prices greatly above Manufacturer’s Recommended Retail Price." Much like the secondary ticket sales market, the UK Government can pass restrictions on scalping. By eliminating a secondhand market rife with exorbitant prices, supporters of the motion are hopeful they can curb scalpers from making millions.
Fortunately, sponsors of this early day motion are aware of the problem lying deep beneath the surface, resellers using automated bots to pre-order. Within the statement members suggest that the Government “bring forth legislative proposals making the resale of goods purchased using an automated bot an illegal activity." This portion has a dual purpose of preventing scalpers from profiting from customers and undermining criminal behavior online.
This should be popular among gamers, many of whom saw firsthand how bots and scalpers dominated the new console launch. During that time, there were posts online showing scalpers with stacks of consoles, selling at significantly higher prices than MSRP. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic pushing sales online, it was next to impossible for a genuine customer to purchase faster than a bot. This latest video game console generation and the RTX 3080 graphics card launch reveals how the market is vulnerable to such abuse.
The downside is that early day motions merely bring attention to a problem or issue, and do not necessarily result in meaningful debate or action. While it is good news that UK politicians are in touch with gamers, some may view these as empty words. Preventing scalpers from selling above the retail price is a feat but making bot resales illegal seems even more unlikely. In addition, despite being somewhat unethical, there is nothing forcing consumers to buy consoles at a price above retail from scalpers. Stock shortages may be common now but give it some time and these devices will be available widespread.
Searching for an available PS5 or Xbox Series X has been a much more difficult process than some expected, but one Twitch channel has a plan – creating a bot that does it automatically. The Killercam1020 stream is currently open 24/7, and is singularly dedicated to finding viewers a new videogame console to buy, especially with Sony's recent PS5 restock announcement. Unfortunately, it hasn't had much success so far.
This holiday season has been fraught with buyers seeking ways to get their hands on the PS5 and Xbox Series X, only to be met with a brick wall of disappointment and manufacturing delays. Those who pounced early were able to get their hands on their choice of the rival consoles, but the recent landscape has been barren in every sense of the word. Not only are hopeful buyers competing against each other, they also face an army of bots and scalpers looking to profit off the extreme scarcity.
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