Video game scalping sucks for more reasons than greed

Photo by: Denise Jans

Content warning: includes links to news sources about robbery and gun violence

Video gaming can be an expensive hobby.

Antonio Romero Monteiro is recognized by Guinness World Records as having the world’s largest video game collection, containing over 24,000 games. This is just one such achievement under Monteiro’s belt — he also holds the individual records for collecting the most Xbox, Sega, Nintendo and PlayStation items.

Oh, and another thing about his collection: it’s worth around $2.1 million.

When a collection becomes big enough, its monetary value can become quite substantial. In some cases, a collection isn’t even required. In 2021, a sealed copy of Super Mario 64 sold for over $1.5 million at an auction, which made headlines for the amount of money certain people are willing to dish out for video games or related products.

Over the years, this concept has led to some individuals wondering how they can use highly-desired video games and consoles simply to turn a profit.

Old but important items being sold for astronomical prices is nothing new. For example, a sealed first-generation iPhone just sold for over $75,000 CAD despite being valued at around $27,000 but video game culture has led to even new items being sold above retail price.

In November 2020, Sony released their highly-anticipated PlayStation 5 (PS5) console — but what should have been a fun time for millions of excited gamers ended up in mass frustration.

A semiconductor chip shortage and supply chain issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic meant that production of the console was already lower than it should have been, making room for those hoping to abuse the situation for a quick buck: scalpers.

Scalping refers to purchasing items that are in high demand but low quantities, and immediately reselling them on secondhand sources such as eBay for an inflated price. This means that those who struggle to buy one of these products from retail locations will need to cough up some extra cash if they wish to get their hands on the item, leading to a profit for the resellers.

Due to a series of unfortunate circumstances, the PS5’s situation was arguably even worse.

The vast majority of physical retail locations were not selling the console in-store because it would create a major influx of would-be buyers, which would not have been doable given COVID-19 restrictions at the time. This meant that major chains turned to their online shopping alternatives so that the consoles could be purchased virtually — opening the door for tech-savvy scalpers to create automated bots that would immediately purchase PS5 consoles in bulk as soon as an online store opened orders.

Soon, the everyday buyer who wanted to purchase a console to play on would find that they were not available anywhere — well, unless they were willing to pay anywhere up to or beyond double the console’s retail price to a scalper on eBay.

Once the scalping situation became well-known, those who engaged in the scummy procedure began receiving much-deserved anger online. They were snatching the long-awaited opportunities of those who wished to enjoy a new gaming experience for their own greed in a display of selfish behaviour.

But even the hate against scalpers has gone much too far. As despicable as their greed might be, there’s simply no justification for death threats on those attempting to scalp, such as the resellers who were held at gunpoint early last year so that the supposed “buyer” could make a getaway with all four consoles.

Scalping not only showcases the greed of those who wish to engage in the reselling process, but it fuels a fiery rage within those who become upset by the act. I believe negativity towards scalpers is entirely deserved; they should certainly not be applauded for their selfishness — but things have clearly escalated too far on both sides when real lives are on the line.

Video gaming should be a hobby that, if anything, brings people together. There’s a reason why online multiplayer is a paid subscription service on every major console: playing games with others is a huge part of gaming that can unite people, cooperatively or competitively, even when they’re not in the same room.

There’s no shame in single-player gaming, either. That’s actually how I spend most of my time with my gaming hobby. Video game collecting is more along these lines: one person compiling a series of personal treasures as part of their unique collection isn’t usually an experience that brings lobbies of people together, but it’s fun all the same. These collections are formed out of passion for the products and can be an excellent hobby for those who can afford to collect.

But there’s no excuse for using video games, or really any type of entertainment media, to tear people apart. Those who scalp should know that their actions not only speak volumes about their character, but that they are standing against one of the core pillars of the gaming community.

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