Maybe these are not the droids you are looking for.
If you’ve been fruitlessly trying to track down a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X in recent months, you’ve probably wondered if the entire system is rigged. The prevailing wisdom claims that scammers use robots to hoard video game consoles and serve predators by innocent nerds.
It turns out that professional scalpers are not as big a factor as you might expect, according to an exciting new analysis of the secondary market for the new PlayStation and Xbox consoles. A surprising percentage of vendors – about 40 percent – sell only one or two consoles on platforms such as eBay, StockX and OfferUp, making them more likely to be an enterprising nana who has luck on a drop instead of a professional scam artist.
Starting in December, Michael Driscoll, a computer science student focusing on machine learning at Georgia Tech, used a computer scraper to gain insight into the resale markets for high-specific computer components before turning his attention to the PS5 and Xbox. The project was born out of a mixture of practicality and procrastination.
“I have wanted to upgrade my computer for about a year, for some of the intense courses I do at school,”
Reverse talked to Driscoll about the process of collecting this data, his advice to anyone looking to get a next-generation console, and what the months ahead might look like for the secondary market.
This interview is edited for clarity and brevity.
So what is a computer scraper and how does it work?
Basically, I wrote a simple little robot that would go through eBay and copy all the listings, with the prices and dates they sold. It’s basically like going to eBay and searching for something. Instead of copying and pasting into Excel myself, my little script just copied it all for me.
Do you have a PS5 or Series X yet?
I do not. I have basically given up because it has been so difficult. I do not have time to look at Discords and stock declines all the time.
What primary differences do you see in the secondary markets for PS5 and Series X?
So there are basically three markets I analyzed for each: eBay, StockX and OfferUp. eBay is without a doubt the easiest way to get data from. The prices are the highest, but it has a distribution all over the country.
StockX has fees that are almost as high as eBay, but prices are consistently lower. I think this is because StockX makes it easier for users to see what the lowest total selling price is.
I recently learned about OfferUp, which is actually a nicer Craigslist, with better mobile interfaces and nicer images. It is also a competitor to the Facebook Marketplace. There are no intermediaries or fees, so prices are lower.
Are people still willing to pay more for a PS5 than a Series X?
Very much. The PS5 currently goes for $ 800 for the digital version, $ 850 for the disc version. Series S goes for around $ 450-ish, and Series X goes for around $ 700.
Why do you think more buyers are choosing the PS5 disk drive model over the digital one?
If I look at my analyzes, the difference between the prices for PS5 disc and digital is $ 50, but PS4 digital goes for 200 percent of MSRP, and the disk drive model is 170 percent of MSRP. People just tell me that wishes a PS5, no matter what model it is.
What would you advise someone looking for a PS5 or Xbox?
Unless it’s a game you really want to play – and for me it’s not enough exclusives yet – just wait. There are no real points. I guess everyone’s PS4 lag is still massive as well. Just play games you already have, and hopefully in a few months there will be more offers.
Did your analysis make a clearer sense of how sophisticated scalps work?
I have seen some retailers reselling on eBay for a selection. These are sites that I know are affiliated with the manufacturers to get these things at a discounted price.
This is not to say that robots are not a problem. There are definitely robots out there. I have seen a bot that you can put on your own personal machine and run it to buy something on Amazon as soon as it is available.
But the most important thing is that people know that there will be a drop at 5 pm on Tuesday, and you have 100,000 people trying to buy it at the same time.
You notice that a significant number of resellers have only sold one or two units. Did it surprise you?
It was a little more than I expected. I expected the scalping market to be worse than it is.
I expected there to be some giants out there who sold 90 percent of the goods, but there are many who are just trying to make extra money during these difficult times, and I do not necessarily owe them that. That’s when you start seeing people selling like five or ten when it’s like, ok, this has gone beyond just trying to raise a few bucks.
See Driscoll’s full market analysis for PS5 and Xbox.