We Now Know How Much Scalpers Warped PS5, Xbox, Zen 3, Ampere Markets
Nvidia’s Ampere arrived to much fanfare last fall before mostly vanishing from store shelves. In the aftermath of the launch, bot-users and resellers bragged about buying as many as 50 cards at a time. This kind of taunting struck a nerve with a lot of people. We know that scalping definitely caused problems for various products, but we haven’t had any idea how big those problems were, until now.
Michael Driscoll, an Oracle Data Engineer, has put together a detailed method of tracking the movement of various products on eBay. He’s published his full data sets and written several reports on what he’s seen across the market these past 6-8 months. He includes data for Nvidia Ampere GPUs, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, AMD CPUs, and AMD’s RDNA2. I’m not going to walk through every article — they’re all quite thorough — but we’ll discuss some of the more interesting findings. He’s also handing out the source code for the data scraper he’s using if anyone wants to tinker with it. All graphs below are his property and work.
Scalping in the Console Market
Roughly 6.85 percent of all Xbox Series S|X were sold on eBay through 1/16. The sales total was $79.68M, with the scalpers making $14.57M in profit, collectively. Prices are currently running at 150 percent of MSRP. Xbox Series S prices increased by about 1.33x, while Xbox Series X pricing remained relatively stable over this time period.
Interestingly, between 28-45 percent of Xbox Series S|X were on accounts that only moved 1-2 consoles. Individual buyers looking to move a system or two appear to have driven a significant percentage of the eBay/StockX volume, not enormous buying operations.
Next up, the PlayStation 5. The total value of the PS5’s eBay market stands at $143M, compared with the Xbox Series S|X at $80M. That puts the Xbox Series market at about 55 percent the size of the PS5. While that’s not a great position for Microsoft to be in, the Xbox One/One X has sold 44 percent as many consoles as the PlayStation 4 according to VGChartz. Microsoft does appear to be over-performing its previous console, even if not by nearly as much as it would like.
The PlayStation 5 is on a rather different trajectory. Higher demand for the console is reflected in the fact that its price curve is higher than the Xbox Series X|Ss. It’s also more stable, reflecting higher overall demand. There are slight differences in how many consoles each seller moves, but people in the 1-2 bracket still account for 40 percent of all PS5’s move. An estimated 7 percent of PS5s were moved this way.
Since eBay and StockX are not the only venues people use to fence hardware at higher-than-MSRP pricing, they aren’t going to give a completely accurate view of how many systems were moved in the gray market. Driscoll estimates somewhere between 10-15 percent of systems are being moved this way. It’s enough to matter, but it’s not enough to irretrievably warp the entire market.
AMD CPUs and GPUs
Let’s talk about what’s going on with the PC side of things. The console market’s scalping value on eBay and StockX comes to $223M, while the Ampere/Ryzen/RDNA2 side of things adds up to $62M, $6M, and $4M, respectively. If you’re curious about the numbers, there were 49,580 Nvidia Ampere GPUs sold, compared with 8,720 Zen CPUs and 3,461 RDNA2 GPUs.
Given that AMD has already hailed the Ryzen 5000 series as a major revenue generator, this seems to imply that a lot of chips have been going to OEMs, not the retail channel. Either that or the people getting their hands on Zen CPUs aren’t selling them. Zen 3 retail markups have been slowly trending downward, implying that the gap between supply and demand is improving:
Zen+ and Zen 2 CPU prices also increased when Zen 3 chips did — the entire AMD product family has been difficult to find this season. Interestingly, AMD also apparently caused a drop in Core i9 pricing; I’ll leave that story to Driscoll.
RDNA2 sales aren’t suffering much markup, but this may be due to a lack of demand for the cards. The new Big Navi GPUs only shipped 7 percent as much volume as Ampere. Price inflation remains at around 220 percent for the 6800 XT and the 6800 and 6900 XT are bumping along around 160 percent.
Ampere demand has obviously dwarfed AMD’s CPU and GPU sales on eBay combined and doubled. Pricing on these GPUs remains high, and unlike some of the other cards we’ve seen, they appear to be trending upwards. This isn’t great for anyone hoping to get an affordable GPU.
Price inflation in the GPU market has been very high. Driscoll quotes price jumps of 33 to 100 percent on older Turing cards, both GTX and RTX. He writes: “It seems many more individuals were lucky to get their hands on an RTX 30 series and turned to eBay to make a quick buck than Zen 3.”
Scalpers Aren’t the Only Problem
No one is going to argue that scalping is a good thing. Driscoll estimates that as many as 15 percent of consoles might be sold at these high mark-ups. These consoles and other hardware represent thousands of parts that might have gone to happy users at MSRP rather than paying a large premium for the privilege of owning hardware.
But what this also lends credence to is the idea that TSMC or one of TSMC’s downstream partners has been capacity / component constrained. The idea that AMD might have prioritized consoles over PC hardware also seems to have gotten some lift as well, given the huge difference in revenue sales between PS5/Xbox and the rest of the PC industry.
Companies are now guiding that it could be July until the shortages ease. Until they do, unless you get lucky, we recommend checking OEM system builds before pulling the trigger and building your own. This is another one of those times when PC companies may be able to offer you better deals than what you’ll find on Newegg or Amazon.