PS5 launch: Scalping & exploiting gamers?

A look at the controversies surrounding the gaming console’s sale in the country

By   |  Published: 27th Feb 2021  11:53 pmUpdated: 27th Feb 2021  7:30 pm

Devices vanishing in minutes and disappointed prospective customers were the early impressions of the PS5’s pre-orders on January 12. As days passed by and there were no more pre-orders in sight, Indian game news websites like IGN India and Digit began to analyse the pre-order launch. Over time, as layer by layer of all the action unfolded, the events uncovered not just how many consoles were imported into India by Sony but also how many reached the people who were able to reserve them.

With just under 4,000 devices shipped in, as estimated from the consignment value declared by Sony India at customs (and confirmed by other news sources), satiation of the Indian player base was unlikely. In a country, where PS4s sold in great numbers ever since the launch of the console, shipping in a number so low was never going to whet the appetite and thus the ‘launch’ was anything but a success. The very reason Sony moved away from its late 2020 launch date in India was to ensure that there would be availability at a later date. But, seriously! 4,000?

The rest is history, the pre-orders closed in minutes, people with successful orders waited eagerly but to no avail as shopkeepers who were supposed to provide merchandise turned scalpers. IGN India has a series of articles on how authorized Sony centres that were supposed to deliver consoles bought on Sony’s India website flipped their merchandise for profits as well.

As Sony India promises to penalize perpetrators, the problem here is much larger. Last year has seen an incredible shortage in the availability of silicon chips as foundries have struggled to meet global supplies. At a time when even automobile manufacturers like Porsche are struggling to procure the chips for their cars, it was only inevitable that the demand fast outpaced the supply. Thus, it should not be surprising that if only 4,000 devices arrived a lot of them would be re-sold at a premium.

Scalping, re-selling, and exploiting the desire of gamers to procure the latest devices has been the legacy of the new generation of consoles. As the West realised the willingness of people to pay beyond the maximum retail price, it was only natural that the same unethical consumer surplus was exploited in India as well. Despite having a much higher MRP than global counterparts and most Indian gaming news sources urging their readers not to overpay, the trend has grown unabated.

No matter how we criticise the trend or expect Sony to rectify the problem, a Rs 40,000 console, when flipped at Rs 65,000 (a 62.5 per cent mark-up), can mean a month’s salary to someone who works at the store. We have seen desperate people do a lot more for a lot less. Lastly, while on the surface it makes no sense, in the same free-market economy where we pay entertainers 100-fold what we pay teachers, it does. If you were bringing in just 4,000, it was never going to be enough; the rest is just capitalism!

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