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Bots Are Depleting Stocks Of The New Playstation And Xbox Consoles

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. As many of you probably know already, Sony and Microsoft this month released their new consoles, the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X. If you are a gamer and you've been trying to get your hands on one of these, you've probably been having some trouble.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Because demand is through the roof - and on top of that, the pandemic is affecting typical purchasing habits.

NICOLE CARPENTER: It really has changed the way people are buying the consoles. Since you can't go stand in a line and wait and just kind of hang out to get a console, you have to do it online.

INSKEEP: Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter for Polygon, a gaming news publication.

CARPENTER: That excess number of people shopping online is just making it a true nightmare.

GREENE: A true nightmare because the websites of some of the big retailers like Walmart are crashing - and it's not just because of individual consumers.

CARPENTER: You don't know if you're shopping against actual customers or bots.

INSKEEP: Bots are programs written to search the Web and immediately purchase a console from a reputable retailer. They're depleting online stock in minutes - or even seconds. And resellers are using bots to gather up their own stock, which they can then sell again at a huge markup.

GREENE: But if you are still hoping to buy one of these yourself at market price, there's actually a bot for that, too.

CARPENTER: There is a Twitch stream that is running a bot that's checking stock at retailers. Right now it's just a whole big wall of out-of-stock. But it plays a sound, so you could just keep it running in the background.

GREENE: Now, the downside of this - those kinds of bots can themselves crash retailer websites, making it impossible for you to buy the PS5 you have finally found.

INSKEEP: And there's also the issue of producing enough for demand. The console makers are running short.

CARPENTER: Sony has said that it will have more stock before the end of the year. Microsoft is making more as well, but they're just not here yet.

GREENE: According to Microsoft, there might not be more Xboxes until April. So what is everyone going to do? Well, I mean, there's always Monopoly or maybe that landscape puzzle that's still missing a few pieces, right?

INSKEEP: (Laughter). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.