One year has passed since the release of Sony’s PlayStation 5, one of the most powerful and somewhat confusing pieces of gaming hardware. Of course, Sony made some revisions to their most powerful console to date, upgrading its hardware structure and cooling system. But one thing hasn’t changed about the PS5, and that’s its availability on the market. Not only is the console challenging to obtain due to the ongoing CPU shortage, but now consumers have to compete with bots – automated software scripts – that are purchasing the consoles.
The ongoing semiconductor shortage causes a significant impact on computer hardware manufacturing, which largely depends on chip makers to deliver CPUs, GPUs, and APUs for gaming console production. This effectively causes the shortage of consoles at your local retailers, or even online shops, prompting consumers to endlessly survey the web or even wait in incredibly long lines for hours to get their hands on the new console. And yet, some would call the shortage “a viable business opportunity,” – resellers that purchase the consoles and sell them for a healthy markup on e-commerce websites like eBay and Amazon. Now, as reported by CNET, scalpers have begun employing bots – automated software scripts, to purchase the consoles.
This puts the regular consumers, who are competing with one another to get a PlayStation 5 this holiday, against automated scripts. Of course, these scripts are inconceivably faster and more effective at finding and purchasing the PS5 console online than your typical internet user. Unfortunately, even tech savants aren’t that effective. And bots aren’t plaguing the console market alone. These software scripts have long been the scourge of honest shoppers looking for concert tickets, the latest sportswear, or limited-edition gaming titles.
Retailers naturally want their piece of the pie, so they employed various methods that allow regular customers to bypass bots – early access to products through loyalty programs and subscription services. Some consumers now pay up to $200 annually for an “early access” subscription that’s essentially a premium to increase their chances of obtaining the desired product, in this case, Sony’s PlayStation 5 console. And as the dreaded Black Friday approaches, more and more retailers are adopting this “premium subscription” model to increase their profit margins. Walmart was the first to use this method, granting its Walmart Plus users access to the checkout button for ps5 one hour earlier than anyone else.
Admittedly, these practices are somewhat effective in minimizing the impact of bots, but they’re equally as shady. Unfortunately, the console and PC hardware shortage isn’t going to end anytime soon, according to Xbox’s Phil Spencer, who stated that the scarcity will likely continue in 2022, with possible market regeneration in 2023. In the meantime, customers who wish to get their hands on Sony or even Microsoft’s gaming hardware without paying subscription fees to retailers now have to compete against bots, which is ultimately a losing battle. The other option is much more viable, considering that premium memberships at retailers offer more than just consoles – subscribers would also enjoy additional benefits, like discounts and early access to hard-to-get goods.