Digital Exclusive- Holiday shoppers battle ‘Bot Buyers’

Digital Exclusive

Christmas in only days away, which means time is winding down to get those perfect gifts for your kids and significant others. But, some of the hottest items on video gamers’ wish lists are proving to be some of the toughest to find.

Millions of gamers have known exactly what they wanted for Christmas since September, when XBOX and PlayStation announced their latest consoles would hit the shelves in November. But many parents and adult players grow more frustrated by the day because the new PlayStation 5 and XBOX Series X continue to be sold out.

“We need more consoles. Number one request I get over and over is ‘It’s so hard to get the consoles right now.’ And, I really apologize for that. We’ve been building them, trying to get as many into the stores as we can, but the demand is just so high.” said Phil Spencer, Executive VP of Gaming at XBOX.

While PlayStation and XBOX continue to produce more consoles, shoppers are trying to purchase them online. But they have experienced another roadblock.

“People are using what’s called ‘bots.’ And, all a bot is is nothing more than a program, that’s set up to do a, what would take the place of a human process for that check out, and they do it within milliseconds.” said Mike Estrich, Compliance manager at TECHWORX.

Mike Estrich is the cyber security compliance manager at Techworx, an IT support company in Erie. He says skilled programmers have built applications to buy out limited release items online, such as video game consoles, sneakers and sports memorabilia faster than is humanly possible. 

“When I ended up calling the support, over at like Walmart and Best Buy, they said the PS5’s had sold out within a minute and a half, each time.” Estrich said.

Estrich said the programmers are doing this so they can re-sell the items for up to 10 times the profit online. Unfortunately, regular people who can’t afford those steep mark-ups have very limited options to compete.

“If you’re trying to go up against these bots, try your luck, or go ahead and buy one of these bots that are for sale. I would not recommend doing that. They’re going to utilize your financial information, your personal information for identity theft. And that’s a big risk for one item.” Estrich said.

Ultimately, the choice is up to the consumer: Pay extra to make your gamer happy this holiday by agreeing to the mark-up or buying a bot, or wait to pay retail price safely in the New Year.

Being in Cyber Security, Estrich again wanted to emphasize the codes that make up these applications are very complex, and handing out credit card information to bots for that one special purchase is very risky. So please be cautious and protect your personal information this holiday season.

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