PS5 stock disaster — here's why you can't buy one

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

One of the most popular devices of 2020 is the PS5, but getting a hold of one of the consoles has been nearly impossible. The fact is there aren’t enough consoles to meet demand, and it seems bots aren’t helping matters.

At least one U.K.-based scalper group has managed to use bots to purchase 3,500 PS5 consoles already. And these groups won’t be restricted to the U.K. either, so if you haven’t been able to get a PS5 they share some of the blame.

This report comes from Business Insider, which spoke to members on a U.K.-based CrepChiefNotify via their Discord group. One manager claimed that they’d been able to pick up 2,472 consoles at launch, in addition to 1,000 pre-ordered consoles that were obtained back in September. 

It’s the kind of story that’s becoming more and more familiar with sought-after products, with scalpers employing bots to purchase products faster than ordinary people can manage. That gives them a huge advantage in situations where a few seconds can literally be the difference between success or not. Then they sell their ill-gotten gains on aftermarket sites like eBay for a huge mark-up.

It’s long been suspected that bots were being used to buy up PS5 stock across the world, not just the U.K.. While ordinary people have been able to pick up consoles for themselves, the incredible levels of demand mean the consoles are an easy target for scalpers trying to make a quick profit. 

And it’s not just PS5s either. Scalpers have been accused of using bots to buy all sorts of sought after products, including the latest flagship graphics cards, limited edition sneakers, and even the Nintendo Switch. Anyone who tried to get one of Nintendo’s hybrid consoles this year will be aware of how little stock there was at retailers, because much of it had been purchased with the intent to resell.

Retailers do have measures in place to prevent this sort of thing, but they’re not perfect solutions and scalpers can get around those protections with relative ease. After all, if you have a community, it’s in their own best interest to work together and increase their chances of success.

Being involved isn’t free, however, and access to CrepChiefNotify’s community costs £30 ($40) a month, or £300 ($400) for lifetime access. But considering that PS5s are currently selling for almost double the $500 MSRP on eBay, some might see it as a fairly safe investment. 

The manager credited the group’s PS5 success with retailers announcing stock was coming in ahead of time. While that makes it easier for customers to buy a console for their own use, it also makes it easier for scalpers to target their bots.

The PS5 launch has been plagued by problems, especially in the U.K. Retail sites became overwhelmed with traffic, and some customers have been receiving random items instead of the console they were expecting. But we can’t downplay the fact that bots are playing a part in the stock shortages. The only way it’s ever going to get stamped out is if it stops being profitable to use bots in this way.

So our advice? Don’t spend almost $1,000 on a PS5 on eBay or some guy from Craigslist. If you want a PS5 your best solution is to be patient and try to get them from retailers. Or wait for supply to catch up with the demand, and pick one up then.

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.

  • knuttt
    Is this not mostly a ploy for money laundering as well as the profit for People willing to pay over the odds?
    Certainly used to be when you could buy an iPhone from the stores in cash, then sell them on and I stand clean money trail...