UK gamers, politicians take aim at console ‘scalpers’

LONDON (AFP) – Furious British gamers and lawmakers are training their sights on “scalpers” who are buying up coveted PlayStation 5 (PS5) and Xbox consoles and selling them online at vastly inflated prices.

The popular consoles have also been hard to come by in other parts of the world, but in Britain anger has boiled over to the point where some lawmakers want to ban the practice of reselling them online at higher prices.

“I’ve been trying to get a PS5 for four months now, but I can’t get one at a normal price,” said student in Manchester, northwest England Tracey Ford.

The 24-year-old gamer has made frequent visits to the store, and registered for alerts when new stocks arrive – but nothing has worked.

“It’s so frustrating,” she told AFP. The cause of her anger is console “scalping”, in which people use “bots” to snap up huge quantities of stock online faster than regular consumers can, and resell them at sky-high prices.

An employee prepares the new Sony PlayStation 5 gaming console for a customer on the first day of its launch, at an electronics shop in Kawasaki, Kanagawa prefecture. PHOTO: AFP

The practice, which is legal in the UK, is usually associated with concert tickets and limited edition footwear.

But it has taken on a new dimension with the release of two highly-anticipated consoles at the end of 2020: the Sony PlayStation 5 and the Microsoft Xbox.

While a PS5 normally costs between GBP360 and GBP450 depending on the model, its median resale price on sites like eBay is GBP650-750, according to United States (US) researcher Michael Driscoll.

Faced with an in-store shortage, many gamers pay full price, which only feeds the market further.

Driscoll estimates that around 52,000 copies of both consoles have been resold in Britain on eBay and StockX for a total of GBP42 million, generating GBP10 million in profit.

That figure is likely to hugely underestimate the problem as it only takes into account the “grey market” and not the black market, “which is definitely larger”, said Driscoll, who is from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.