As scalpers continue to buy up and resell the PlayStation 5 at inflated prices, you may be wondering if anything can be done to prevent automated bots from hoarding all of its inventory.
According to Walmart, the retailer has managed to prevent bots from snatching new PS5 units before real consumers can buy them, pointing to a recent incident during a pre-Thanksgiving sale for the much-requested console.
“A bot prevention action that we implemented just hours before the PlayStation 5 event on November 25, blocked more than 20 million bot attempts in the first 30 minutes alone,” Jerry Geisler, Walmart’s chief information security officer, wrote in a blog post. .
The bots were able to make that dizzying number of tries thanks to software automation. Bot programs check retailer web pages for new product listings, then make repeat purchases on behalf of the scalper in seconds, exhausting available inventory before real consumers can even add the product to their cart.
According to Geisler, the more than 20 million bot attempts represent just a fraction of what Walmart’s systems routinely interact with. However, the retailer says it has been able to thwart scalpers with unspecified anti-bot techniques.
“Bot scripts are constantly evolving and being rewritten, so we’ve built, deployed and updated our own bot detection tools, successfully blocking the vast majority of the bots we see,” he said.
“As an extra step, we also quickly review and cancel any orders that have been confirmed to have been purchased by bots that may have slipped through them,” added Geisler. “As a result, the vast majority of our next-gen consoles have been bought by legitimate customers, which is exactly what we want.”
That said, the consoles remain hard to buy. Deliveries for the PS5 and Xbox Series X were limited, while consumer demand for them was overwhelming. Coupled with the pandemic and the need to stay at home, Walmart has witnessed unprecedented amounts of internet traffic to its website and mobile app.
“What we see at the end of the year is a person with two cell phones, a laptop and a tablet, constantly refreshing the product pages,” said a Walmart spokesperson. “Potentially millions of people are doing all this at the same time.”
The company’s goal is to keep automated bots out of the traffic flow. But Walmart also compared the effort to a never-ending game of cat and mouse. As a long-term solution, Geisler is calling on US lawmakers to crack down on the automated bots. “We hope others in the retail industry will join us by asking lawmakers to do more to prevent these unwanted bots on retail sites so that customers have equal access to the products they want,” he wrote.
Congress passed anti-bot legislation in 2016 with the Better Online Ticket Sales Act, but it only bans the resale of tickets to commercial events purchased with bot technology.
As for PS5 and Xbox Series X, Walmart plans to sell more shares on the company’s website and mobile app today at 3:00 PM EST / 12:00 PM PST. However, the units are only available for delivery and will arrive after December 25th.