PS5 restocks getting ruined by ‘grinch bots' — what you need to know

PS5 restocks
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

With such high demand, working out where to buy a PS5, is not easy. But that's compounded with scalpers continuing to be a serious problem as fans try to pick up Sony's new console without resorting to paying an over-inflated price.

Scalpers have been quick to adopt technology in their work, using bots to buy up as much PS5 stock as possible and then sell the consoles on for wildly inflated prices on sites like eBay. As the holidays approach that’s earned these irritating shopping robots a new name: Grinch bots.

Using bots to buy up stock isn’t a new thing, and they’ve been employed several times in the past to help scalpers buy up sought after products like concert tickets and limited-edition sneakers.

More recently, though, their use has ramped up following the release of the PS5 and Xbox Series X. Both consoles are pretty much 2020's the hottest products, and scalpers sensed an opportunity to make money.

It’s got to the point now where genuine consumers have been employing bots to get themselves a console, even if they have no intention of buying up extra stock and selling it for a profit. The Washington Post reported that retailers are well aware of this new trend, and it’s become a constant war between them and the scalpers to ensure consoles are being sold to legitimate customers and not resellers. 

During the Black Friday sales Walmart claimed to have blocked 20 million bot attempts within 30 minutes of the PS5 coming back in stock. And Target said it’s constantly tracking and blocking bots attempting to buy similar high-demand products. British retailer Very even went so far as to cancel 1,000 pre-orders once they’d been placed by bots.

Using a bot isn’t as simple as turning on a piece of software and leaving it to do its thing. One scalper The Washington Post spoke to said that to get round retailer defences he has to obscure his IP address with proxies and tweaks his delivery address to stop the orders looking too suspicious. But Walmart’s chief information security officer Jerry Geisler said that retailers are onto the tricks employed by scalpers and their bots. 

Geisler said that because bots are constantly evolving, so too are the retailer’s bot detection tools. It’s a weird game of cat and mouse, but instead of cheese the mouse is after a PS5 or Xbox Series X. Unfortunately it’s not always enough, and scalper bots do get through the defences to buy up consoles.

But Geisler insisted that the majority of Walmart's consoles have been bought by real people and in cases where they've be bought by scalpers, measures are taken to cancel bot orders. However, Geisler had no figures to back up that claim. 

While scalpers may be running the launch of the new games consoles, we have some handy tips to ensure you're in with a fighting chance of getting a PS5 or Xbox Series X before the holidays

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.