Sony’s PlayStation 5 is beating Xbox in the online black market

Jackie Davalos

Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox Series X haven’t hit stores yet, but the video game console showdown has already begun in the online black market.

Demand for the PlayStation 5 on resale websites is outstripping that of the new Xbox, and shoppers are paying more to get their hands on the first run of products, market research shows. The vibrant market for scalpers offers a preview of next month’s contest when the two rival game companies will release their new consoles to a global audience with a seemingly endless appetite for home entertainment.

Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 5

In the U.S., consumer spending on video game hardware, content and accessories is at record highs. The pandemic triggered a surge in players and engagement through the spring and summer months, at times depleting inventory of the current generation of consoles, according to research firm NPD Group.

The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S and X, the first major console releases from Sony and Microsoft in seven years, are among the most highly anticipated gadgets of the holiday season. Spending on games over the holidays is expected to jump 24% from last year. “Units will be tough to find,” wrote Mat Piscatella, an analyst at NPD.

Pre-orders for the new consoles went live in September and sold out at most retailers almost immediately. A chunk of the inventory was snapped up by scalpers to sell at sizable markups on EBay Inc. and other websites.

Xbox Series X

Both products are highly coveted, but demand is steeper for PlayStation 5 pre-orders by various measures. There are more listings on EBay for the new PlayStation than the Xbox Series X, according to ShelfTrend, which tracks activity on the auction website. More than 9,300 PlayStation pre-orders have changed hands since September, almost double resales of the new Xbox, the research firm said.

The average number of bids on each PlayStation auction on EBay was 17.8 compared with 12.3 for the new Xbox, according to data from MarkSight, another market researcher.

Microsoft and Sony have provided optimistic guidance to investors for their upcoming game consoles. Each recently described demand as “very strong.”

Scalpers have seized on the buildup of anticipation for the new products by driving up prices. PlayStation 5 pre-orders sell for an average price of $871, while the Xbox Series X goes for $720, MarkSight said. The average markup is 59%, the firm said.

When they go on sale in early November, the high-end version of the new PlayStation and Xbox will sell for $500. That’s assuming you can find one in stores.