I have a plan to fix Sony's PS5 scalping problem

It's not impossible to give gamers a better chance

PS5 Sony PlayStation 5
(Image credit: Sony)

I’m not waiting to buy a PS5 but lots and lots of T3 readers are, and I’m increasingly frustrated on your behalf. I keep updating our PS5 stock check article up-to-date and the biggest frustration is the timing of stock being added, and the speed at which it sells out when it is added. If I see a hot tip on stock, I’ll often jump on the site to confirm it’s real and its often selling out before I can even bash out the words updating you. 

This is, of course, because of the bots which watch all the same sources we do. If Argos gets a 5am stock allocation, the bots are also awake, which I am usually not. That means that normal people really don’t stand a chance, unless they know it’s coming and have set an alarm to blearily hop in a queue, when they should be enjoying a vivid cheese dream before getting up for work. 

My big problem with all of this is that I think it would be really easy for Sony to prevent it happening. After all, most people who want a PS5 have owned a previous Sony console, which probably means they have a PlayStation account. With that being the case, I would love to see Sony using that data to give existing customers a leg-up. 

This could be done though their existing console, with a simple app that allows them to register for a PS5. That way, Sony could use some sort of redemption code that would allow them to authenticate real customers, and shut out bots. Of course third-party retailers would need to support this too. 

Sony wouldn’t even need to restrict this to existing owners. But if you set up your PlayStation account anyway, through its website, and perhaps popped a £10 deposit in to secure a place in the queue, that would be a really good solution too. Scalpers might find it hard to bot that, because they’d also need hundreds of quid in deposits before they could reserve a machine. Plus, a unique shipping address and a credit card that hasn’t previously been used. 

Sure, none of these ideas is bulletproof. I’m sure some individuals have bought consoles and then flogged them for a profit, but that problem is smaller in scale than the botnets by a wide margin. 

Ultimately, I can’t help but feel part of the reason this hasn’t happened is that Sony and the many retailers aren’t massively incentivised to change things. After all, Sony is selling PS5s as fast as it can make them. It probably isn’t too bothered about scalpers because a sale is a sale. Retailers probably feel the same, and I doubt it keeps them up awake worried about people not being able to play a next gen console.

Ian has been involved in technology journalism since 2007, originally writing about AV hardware back when LCDs and plasma TVs were just gaining popularity. Nearly 15 years on, he remains as excited about how tech can make your life better.