Technology

The scourge of video game console resellers

The PS5 sells for $ 499 or $ 630 in stores, depending on which version you choose, but its resale price has hit as high as $ 1,500 apiece on sites like Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji. (Photo: The Canadian Press)

The shortage of video game consoles during the COVID − 19 pandemic has been very lucrative for resellers like Rick Charles.

The 25-year-old project manager has made up to $ 500 in profit from the sale of every new PlayStation 5, Sony’s most recent version of the coveted console.

“Everyone knew Sony wasn’t going to be able to meet the demand, and when guys buy 20 or 50 at a time, the average retail buyer doesn’t stand a chance,” he said. he explained in an interview.

And so buyers, especially parents before the Christmas holidays, were willing to shell out big bucks for the latest PS5. It sells for $ 499 or $ 630 in stores, depending on the version chosen, but its resale price reached as much as $ 1,500 apiece on sites like Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji at the height of the second wave lockdowns.

Even though those prices have since fallen back to between $ 750 and $ 950, that’s still a lot of money for households with limited budgets. However, experts say there are other, more affordable ways to quench your thirst for games.

Video games exploded in popularity during the pandemic as people were left with more free time. They can also use the gaming devices to communicate with their friends.

In Canada, spending on PC games, game consoles and mobile phones increased to nearly US $ 2.9 billion in 2020. This value is expected to reach more than US $ 3 billion in 2021, Morris Garrard estimated. , research analyst in mobile technology and games for the British firm Futuresource Consulting.

Ancillary markets such as gaming headsets have also seen a boom in demand (both for gaming and for work and home study), with shipments to Canada increasing 29% year over year. in 2020.

A demand set to decrease

Excess demand for new consoles is expected to decline by mid-year, with further waves of restocking, Garrard said.

Walmart says it is restocking PS5 consoles online to provide a “fair and equitable opportunity” to purchase the item they are looking for.

“This gives all customers the same access to the greatest number of products and allows us to communicate with all customers at the same time,” said spokesperson Felicia Fefer in an email.

“When we restock, we prefer to surprise and delight our customers rather than provide advance notice,” she said, adding that there was a limit of one console per customer.

23-year-old Nathan Santos searched online every day for months before finally stumbling across a console one evening at the Walmart site.

“I probably opened the page 15 seconds after posting a notification, and the digital versions of the console (no disc drive) were already gone, so I figured I wouldn’t wait any longer and I ‘bought the version (with disc player), ”said the substitute teacher at an elementary school in Mississauga, Ont.

“I could not believe it. I even sent a video to a few of my friends on Snapchat, basically in shock. ”

Mr. Santos is not a big supporter of resellers, which he accuses of preventing gamers from getting their hands on systems at retail prices.

“I’m not prepared to pay several hundred dollars more for this console when I know I can eventually get one at retail.”

The shortages are rooted in the problems that have limited semiconductor chip production, a problem that also plagues the automotive industry.

Other less expensive options

Kris Alexander, assistant professor at the RTA School of Media at Ryerson University, notes that while some suggest the supply restrictions are intentional, similar shortages have affected previous versions of previous PlayStation consoles and other systems. games like the Xbox Series X and S.

“There is no confirmation to conclude that this was done on purpose or not, but there is a timeline to see that it happened with the PS2, PS3, PS4 and now PS5” , he observed.

One who describes himself as a video game teacher added that you don’t have to be rich to enjoy the hobby, since some free games are available online and old, used consoles can be purchased.

“I never had the money to buy a console in its first year of release, with the exception of the Sega Dreamcast, in 1999,” Mr. Alexander noted, adding that he was still playing the old fashioned way. Wii U with his kids.

“If we can just take our distance from the hype for a second, we can see that there is a plethora of free games out there, many created by (world-class studios) that are immediately free to play.”

Libraries are also great places to find games for free, continued Kent Sikstrom, community relations manager for Kijiji Canada, who saw a 372% increase in searches for the term PlayStation in the first few weeks of the release. new console, last fall.

This initial wave of excitement was also seen with other gaming systems like the Xbox and Nintendo Switch.

In addition to the search for new PS5s, the demand for refurbished and used systems has also increased as people who have struggled during the pandemic seek deals.

Some companies offer video game rental subscription services and older games can be redeemed for a new title.

“So it’s still possible to play recent games, one game at a time, for a monthly subscription, which is a lot cheaper than, say, $ 100 for the last game.”

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