PS5 bundles are bad for scalpers — and for gamers

PS5 bundles are bad
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Of all the methods retailers have devised to fight scalpers, PS5 bundles may be one of the most effective. Recently, my colleague Roland Moore-Colyer wrote an article about elusive PS5s staying in stock longer than ever before, at least partially due to being sold along with games and accessories rather than à la carte. And while his reasoning is almost certainly correct, being able to find PS5 only in bundles is, at best, a mixed blessing. 

Why PS5 bundles seem enticing 

ps5 bundle

(Image credit: GameStop)

Back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and the console war was between Sega and Nintendo, buying a console often meant getting a bundle just by default. New systems generally came with at least one game, and often a second controller. But as this practice fell out of favor, retailers sought to make up the difference by offering “bundles” that included the console, a game or two, another controller and — if you were particularly unlucky — another needless accessory that the store wouldn’t be able to sell otherwise. 

Bundles are extremely common when consoles first launch, and the reason why is simple: Retailers have customers over a barrel. When a console first launches, people really, really want it, especially since consoles often come out right before the holidays. As such, a retailer could sell a $500 console by itself, or it could sell a console along with a $60 controller, two $60 games and maybe a gift card, too, which ensures that the customer will have no choice but to come back and shop again. Either way, the console will get sold.

As my colleague pointed out, the inclusion of games and accessories is the primary reason why scalpers don’t want PS5 bundles. It’s relatively easy to buy a PS5 for retail price and flip it on eBay for a profit, since customers can’t get one anywhere else. It’s much more difficult to resell a copy of Demon’s Souls, or a DualSense controller, since customers can get those at retail price from more reliable purveyors.

Retailers are banking on the fact that you’ll kind of, sort of want some of the accessories in a bundle. And what’s another few hundred dollars in the grand scheme of things?

The underlying message is clear: PS5 bundles act as a deterrent for scalpers and bots, resulting in more real people getting their hands on the hot new console. The bundled games are good; the extra controllers are useful; the price is the same as if you’d bought all the components separately. So what’s the problem, exactly?

Sony PS5 Dualsense Controller

(Image credit: Sony via thegameawards YouTube)

Here’s the problem with PS5 bundles 

The primary problem with bundles is that they assume every gamer — or at least every household — has the same taste and requirements. A recent GameStop PS5 bundle included a PS5, an extra DualSense controller, a copy of Spider-Man: Miles Morales, a copy of Demon’s Souls and a $20 GameStop gift card. It cost $730 altogether — roughly what you’d pay if you bought all of these items separately, although I couldn’t quite make the math work. The bundle page is no longer up online, so I couldn’t verify the exact contents.

Let’s assume, though, that you’re paying standard retail price for everything in the bundle, since that’s how GameStop and its competitors usually operate. A PS5 by itself costs $500, so an extra $220 is nearly half the price of the system in extras that you may or may not want. Gamers who play by themselves need only one controller, particularly since both Demon’s Souls and Miles Morales are single-player games. The extra $20 gift card is a particularly naked ploy to get you back to GameStop. Yes, it’s money you’d probably spend eventually anyway, but this way, you’ll have to spend it at one particular retailer.

This isn’t even particularly egregious as bundles go. Often, bundles will include much more niche accessories, such as a camera or a controller charging dock, which aren’t even remotely necessary for the core console experience.

The fact is that game consoles, at least at launch, are a luxury item. Retailers are betting on the fact that if you have $500 to spend on a just-for-fun purchase, you probably have $700 — and if you don’t, someone in a similar situation will. If you really, truly want every single item in a bundle, that’s fine. But retailers aren’t banking on that. They’re banking on the fact that you’ll kind of, sort of want some of the accessories in a bundle, but you really want the console, and what’s another few hundred dollars in the grand scheme of things? It’s a classic case of prioritizing short-term satisfaction over long-term value, and humans do it all the dang time.


(Image credit: Sony)

Bottom line 

If we’re forced to choose between two bad options, I will grudgingly admit that “gamers getting some extras they don’t need, but could potentially use” is a much better situation than “scalpers getting everything.” But at best, it still encourages people to overspend, and at worse, it saddles them with a bunch of gear and games they didn’t really want in the first place.

If you’re in the market for a PS5, a bundle is probably your best bet right now. Just be sure it’s a bundle of things you actually want, or you could wind up wondering why you didn’t just wait a few more weeks.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi. 

  • rdmetz
    And in other news water is wet.

    What a waste of time an article likely written just to show a few ads.

    Everyone wants to make money...even you.

    Bundles are a long time give me with new console launch and the fact that it deters scalpers is quite a good revelation.

    LLike your useless article already concluded bundles suck (always have) but they are a common occurrence around these things AND they have the added benefit of having you getting something for 50% more of your money vs paying upwards of double for literally nothing extra.

    Me? I'm either getting the console itself on its own exactly as it is or I'm waiting. I'm not that inpatient like so many others but for those that are bundles are likely a God send.

    I myself am quite good at landing the consoles (or other hot tech items like the recent pc gpu / cpu craze) and have gotten all of them this past year without issue.

    Don't get me wrong it took hard work and lots of prep but I didn't go in ignorant to the fact that it would literally be a battle / race the moment any of them were available and taking steps like prefilling Google autofill, logging in automatically as much as possible to all sources, as well as having tapped into as many sources of notifications of new availability as possible.

    SSome like the Xboxes I landed at first availability by knowing sources like likley less hit than Walmart or best buy. With ps5 I was taken back by the early launch of preorders and missed the first go round that day but thanks to tapping into many of the alert accounts worth a darn (Wario) I landed one from Amazon who ended up going live much later in the day.

    For the gpu scene I knew it would be even more cut throat so my prep there was a couple weeks of building sources for notifications as well as even setting up my very own web refresh tools with discord notifications through my own server.

    I even had a constant running web refresh tool running on my android phone with dozens of sites refreshed every minute.

    All this is to say if you don't want to pay for bundles you don't have to you can either do like myself and invest the time to secure the yourself or you could pay someone to do all the work for you (ie a scalper).

    People either need to step up and be ready or expect others who are willing to do the work to make you pay one way or the other.

    At least with the bundles your getting a win win (no work and some actual products for your extra costs).

  • EighthTrumpet
    You have flawed and 1 dimensional arguments for this.
    People who play single player games most definitely can use 2 controllers. When 1 dies you got a fresh one waiting. It's probably a guaranteed thing that if you have a console you have 2 controllers.

    Spider-man and Demon's Souls are 2 of the hottest games launching for PS5.

    Also idk which bundle you're talking about, but the ones I saw at GameStop didn't come with a GameStop credit but with PS+ subscription. 1 came with $100 PSN credit instead of the games. 2 came with a PS Camera and the other with a headset. So these are things people would buy with their new console anyway. But it's all in one bundle that GameStop conveniently let's you pay for in monthly payments. So they help the gamer with convenience.

    But eitherway, screw GameStop.
  • FreakyJP
    I couldn't disagree more with the idea that bundles are bad for gamers. First of all, no one forces you to buy a bundle and even then, often there are mutliple bundles available. I even know people who wait for bundles and special editions.

    It all depends on the type of bundle of course, and some retailers might offer bad bundles. But I bought my PS4 at launch in a bundle that came with a second controller and Killzone: Shadow Fall for $499 where as buying the game and a second controller seperately would have made the total cost $518, so at launch I had a $19 advantage! The same for my Switch, I waited until a special edition bundles with Super Smash Bros was released before I bought one, en even this special edition saved me a few bucks instead of buying the two items sperately. Same story for my Xbox, I bought the white special edition one bundled with Sunset Overdrive for a cheaper price than when I would have just bought a regular Xbox One and the game.

    I've even seen retailers bundle a console with like 4 or more games without a significant price increase, or even throw in an extra free game to an alrzady existing bundle, during holiday season and stuff like that, so why the hell would you complain as a consumer??

    Seriously, gaming journalists have to whine and bitch about everything these days...