Walmart claims that it may have blocked tens of millions of attempts by retail bots attempting to purchase the PS5. In a corporate blog post, the retailer's chief information security officer, Jerry Geisler, outlined the approach that it had taken to prevent "grinch bots" from snapping up consoles.
Geisler says that Walmart has a number of strategies it can use when it detects a bot, and that those steps are working out. He claims that "one bot preventative action we implemented just hours before the PlayStation 5 event on November 25 blocked more than 20 million bot attempts within the first 30 minutes alone." If any bots did make it through, Walmart also audits and "quickly cancels any orders confirmed to be purchased by bots," meaning that "the vast majority of our next-gen consoles have been purchased by legitimate customers."
That likely comes as little consolation to those who still haven't managed to get their hands on a new machine - both the PS5 and Xbox Series X sold out almost straight away, and stocks continue to evaporate in minutes wherever they reappear - but it could be good news for the future of the console as a whole.
According to a report by Bloomberg, console manufacturers would normally expect to sell about one new game for every machine sold. In Japan, however, where Sony has already shipped 213,000 PS5s, it has only sold 63,000 physical games. Analysts suggest that even once digital downloads are factored into that figure, the percentage of games to consoles sold isn't particularly high. That could lead to game sales never lining up with hardware expectations, dropping the PS5's overall revenue, which could have its own knock-on effects.
Despite the efforts of places like Walmart, scalping has already had a big impact in the weeks since the new consoles' release. More than 60,000 machines were sold on Ebay after launch, often at serious mark-ups. In the UK, politicians are raising awareness of the issue, with a number of members of parliament launching an Early Day Motion that would look to ban the use of automated bots to buy consoles and computer parts.
If you still can't find a PS5, grab an alternative from our list of the best gifts for gamers.