It's no secret that PS5 stock is incredibly hard to find in the run-up to the holidays. This makes some gamers resort to some desperate means to combat the PS5 shortage, but do these people risk being taken advantage of?
Retailers have been scrambling to acquire more PS5 stock in the face of exceedingly high demand. Sadly, the PS5 shortage has resulted in many gamers still unable to secure a console even several weeks after launch.
The scarcity hasn't been helped by scalpers, who have been buying PS5s in high quantities then selling them on at an inflated price. This is often just the work of some independent and unscrupulous individuals, at least until now.
But it seems even some legitimate retailers are enabling scalpers or taking advantage of the PS5 shortage to make extra profit. Scarcity creates value and this drives prices, but Sony intended the PS5 console to retail at a price they set.
In the United States, this is $499, and in the UK this price is £449. Stores charging more than this could face accusations of taking advantage of their customers and encouraging scalping. Especially when it comes to the resale of pre-owned PS5 consoles.
PS5 Shortage Leading to Unethical Business Practices?
Leading gaming retailers like GameStop (US) and GAME (UK) have not increased their prices, despite the PS5 shortage. Even when it comes to used PS5 consoles they've acquired– sold to them by a member of the public.
However, online stores like eBay are seemingly turning a blind eye to PS5s sales at extraordinarily high prices. eBay is a marketplace controlled by those who use it. Therefore, eBay is under no legal obligation to intervene – but could they be under a moral obligation?
The company is still collecting their fee from each sale, which some may see as profiting from scalping. eBay and other online retailers provide a platform that enables this, something that could lead to criticism from their customers.
Other stores, such as Very, have taken a stand against scalpers. Or have actively attempted to hinder their efforts.
UK based gaming retailer CEX, who's primary trade comes from second-hand gaming, is reportedly selling pre-owned PS5s for £815 ($1,097) – nearly double what Sony and other retailers ask for the console.
What's worse is CEX is actually paying PS5 owners who sell pre-owned consoles to them £650 ($875) in cash—knowing full well that the original owner only paid £449.
Essentially, CEX is providing PS5 scalpers with all the motivation they need to make a quick (and risk-free) £200 profit on each console they sell. At the same time, they are making a profit of £165 off the back of each sale themselves.
What CEX is doing is not illegal, but it could be considered highly unethical and even predatory. Not every customer understands the true and intended value of a PS5.
For example, some hard-working parents may be desperately trying to get their hands on a PS5 as a Christmas present for one of their children. The PS5 shortage could lead them to place themselves in financial difficulty just to not disappoint their child.
CEX could be accused of taking advantage of customers like this. Customers who may not risk financial difficulties over a normally priced PS5 but could from such an inflated price.
Gamers and savvier customers may simply refuse to pay this amount of money for a PS5. Instead, choosing to wait until more stock is inevitably available, but not everyone follows and understands the gaming industry.
Corporate Reputation After the PS5 Shortage
What CEX is doing is arguably worse than what eBay is not doing. eBay is simply doing what they've always done, hoping the market will correct itself before they need to act.
They know this issue is a storm in a teacup and will pass without them needing to get involved. At least, this is what they will be counting on. After all, more PS5 stock is coming.
CEX however, is actively profiteering off the back of the PS5 shortage and the desperation it's causing – like scalpers. In contrast, other brands have chosen not to take advantage of the scarcity, keeping prices in line with Sony's RRP.
CEX have used their status as an exchanger to justify prices that other businesses would consider unethical. Something that may come back to haunt them, especially if some customers remember and decide to boycott them.
Even CEX employees have weighed into the debate, disagreeing with their employer's decision to charge such an inflated price for the PS5.
Here's what some anonymous CEX employees told Eurogamer, "Obviously none of us think it's good," one staff member told me. "We have been told that the price is that high to match with eBay but that's when it was £750, it's now even higher."
"Morally I Find It Repugnant"
"CEX is legally in the right to put the price to whatever they want but morally I find it repugnant and think they are helping keep the scalping prices so high in a year when we could all use a little bit less crap to deal with. A new console might bring someone's mood up, and I know personally I use games as a stress release and to take my mind off of things."
"I completely understand the argument about the high price and of course there is a moral dilemma that comes with it. Am I expecting to receive abuse from customers when the stores reopen? Absolutely. Am I comfortable selling a £450 console for over £800? Not really but if someone is going to pay it I'm not going to turn them away."
A survey shows just how many PS5 and Xbox fans are missing a console since launch due to what scalpers are doing. With some scalper groups using bots to prevent 3500 gamers from getting PS5s.
The next-gen consoles may be in short supply (and scalpers are not helping), but the PS5 is on track to have the biggest launch ever, according to sales figures. Let's just hope everyone who wants one can find one soon – for a reasonable price.