Buy graphics cards and game consoles: “It’s a bot war”

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If you are privately looking for an affordable gaming graphics card or a game console like Microsoft’s Xbox Series X or Sony’s Playstation 5, you need strong nerves, a lot of perseverance and some kind of training as a detective. In addition to the global lack of chips and, in the case of graphics cards, the mining of cryptocurrencies with GPUs, the resale market could also drive up prices.

The Verge spoke to two programmerswhose tools notify interested parties about graphics cards and consoles in stock at US shops. Programmers are currently seeing a “bot war” that shops are welcoming with open arms. Whoever has the best and fastest bot for automated buying gets the goods.

Alleged countermeasures such as queues before the purchase would only harm private people and make life easy for so-called scalpers. Scalpers buy hardware only to sell it on at an even higher price via platforms such as Ebay.

“The bots go straight to the checkout. They figured out how to go to the checkout without even visiting the website,” said one of the interviewees. “By setting up these queuing systems, the traffic is slowed down, but the bots go through the back door and buy all the items – while the customers are still sitting in the parking lot.”

Screenshot of Gamestop’s queuing system to buy a Playstation 5. Most interested parties were notified after a while that they were out of luck.

(Image: Mark Mantel / heise online [Screenshot])

It goes on to say, “You have to lock the back door, not the front door. That begs the question: Do you care? Are you just trying to save on infrastructure costs? Ultimately, it is bots and scalpers that drive the prices of these goods in.” Go up and give them higher profit margins. Some retailers may even be happy because they can ship the goods on pallets, which saves them a lot of money on shipping. “

So far, the tools of the two developers only notify interested parties about products in stock. They make profit through affiliate programs, in which shops pay a few US dollars in commission for each purchase made. As of now, community members have bought a good 50,000 graphics cards – sales are currently expected to be in the direction of 200,000 US dollars per year.

“We haven’t implemented full automatic checkout and buy-now because that’s associated with scalpers. We develop scripts and utilities. You still check out manually, but we help you with some of the tricky things by offering little scripts that you can run. “

But the race is so advanced that there’s not much you can do without automated purchases: “We’re now at a point where we’re starting to develop bots because a lot of retailers are so bad, so dominated by bots We’re going to have to develop auto-checkout tools to be competitive – just to get past the other bots. It’s a bot war. “

Even mid-range graphics cards such as AMD’s Radeon RX 6700 XT and Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3070 currently cost 1000 euros and more. Many models are available immediately because dealers are increasingly calling for prices that are so high that even resellers are no longer interested in them.

AMD and Nvidia sell small amounts of reference designs every week (in Nvidia parlance, Founders Editions) at the official recommended prices, which scalpers will love. Like many other hardware manufacturers, AMD relies on the service provider Digital River, which has introduced a rudimentary queuing system. With a lot of persistence, numerous attempts and a lot of luck you can get a copy, but most of the time you get nothing. Nvidia relies on cheaper notebooks as a partner in this country, but their stocks are always sold out immediately.

AMD’s direct shop before the service provider Digital River introduced a queuing system. Often times, errors were just displayed without being able to complete the purchase.

(Image: Mark Mantel / heise online [Screenshot])

In an interview with The Verge The developers sum up that perseverance when buying a graphics card or console brings the most benefits. According to them, however, it is hardly possible to get hold of a graphics card at an RRP. In many cases, it makes more economic sense to spend a few hundred US dollars or euros more than to graze the market for hours or days.

Meanwhile, AMD and Nvidia achieve record quarter after record quarter, also with increasing delivery figures for graphics cards and thus growing sales. So GPUs seem to exist in principle, they just don’t reach PC gamers at acceptable prices.


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