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What the Tech: Xbox’s anti-scalping scheme is too little, too late

Microsoft has finally begun to tackle the problem of scalpers – so what a shame that this small scheme has only kicked in after the action has already kicked off.

The launch-time excitement for a new generation of consoles is always at fever pitch, as fans eagerly await the machines that will keep them company for the next seven years or so. The situation was arguably even more frenetic in the final months of 2020, as lockdown had left us with little more to do than stare at our screens as Christmas approached.

What a pity, then, that the overriding talking point in the days and weeks after the highly anticipated releases of the PS5 and the Xbox Series X was not their lightning fast storage speeds, the new and more responsive controllers or the pristine graphics; it was how difficult it was to even buy one in the first place.

As soon as sales went live on any website you care to name, stock was immediately reduced to zero as sales went through seemingly instantaneously. If it was the case that all of these sales were driven by fans, then I guess you could shrug your shoulders and mumble Captain Hindsight’s favourite truism: “first come, first served”. But the reality is that many of these products went straight into the arms of scalpers, who would stockpile them before selling them on for an increased price and pocketing the difference for themselves. 

Neither Microsoft nor Sony appeared to do much at the time to rescue their supporters from these rip-offs; after all, a sale is a sale as far as they’re concerned. However, now that the dust has settled on the debris, Microsoft has trudged over to finally offer a weak solution that would have made little difference in the first place, to heal the damage that’s already been done.

Let me explain: the Console Purchase Pilot broaches the idea that registered members of the Xbox community can reserve one console in advance. Sounds good. But It’s currently only applicable for a limited (unspecified) number of Xbox Insider members in the United States. All these provisos in place render it less than half as effective as it could have been, without mentioning that it’s almost six months since the consoles launched and the crisis was at its peak.

It’s good that Microsoft has finally made some semblance of an effort to serve its customer base in this way, but the problems at launch were both predictable and preventable. If the proposals in this scheme were implemented on a wide scale, a lot of unnecessary pain and difficulty could have been avoided, and the brand would have been even better beloved by its fans for the efforts taken.

The next time that such an event is upon us (that’s a seven year head start by my estimate) the manufacturers who have spent so much careful time and effort precision-honing these products and attracting attention for them via manipulative marketing, should at last try and actually make sure to deliver them into the hands of the gamers themselves. The sales figures might not be drastically changed, but it will pay dividends as far as fans’ trust and devotion are concerned.




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