Scalpers have been a major problem with the release of the PS5 and Xbox Series X|S. So much so, that there are some in the industry who are worried that scalping may threaten the long-term viability of the PS5. However, there is at least one major retailer that has taken matters into their own hands; Walmart reportedly stopped 20 million scalping bots in just 30 minutes on November 25.
It’s no secret that getting your hands on a PS5 is almost as difficult as it used to be to get a refund from Sony. Scalping groups claimed to have bought thousands of consoles, while other, more criminal groups took to the streets of the UK to steal consoles and computer hardware straight from delivery trucks—Red Dead Redemption 2 style.
Of course, the easiest way to get ahold of the consoles for resale is to create an army of bots to “stand in line” for you, while simultaneously keeping real people at the back. This was the tactic that most scalpers employ, and the one that Walmart claims it largely prevented. The news comes from a blog post by Walmart, in which the company’s Chief Information Security Officer, Jerry Geisler, wrote that 20 million bots were prevented from accessing Walmart’s digital storefront.
In the post, Geisler says that the company experienced “levels and patterns of traffic” that it had never seen before. He surmises that the increase in traffic is probably organic, and is due to the ongoing pandemic, as well as the launch of the PS5 and Series X|S. However, he also points out that Walmart.com has also been visited by what he calls “Grinch Bots” that are attempting to purchase next-gen consoles instead of actual customers.
While bots are constantly being updated, Geisler says that Walmart is constantly upgrading and updating the tactics that it employs to ensure that only real people are purchasing from the retailer. As such, Geisler claims that 20 million bots were prevented from accessing the site, and orders by bots that slipped by were quickly canceled to protect inventory. Of course, nothing is foolproof, so there were some bots that were able to complete a purchase.
Even so, Geisler calls for his peers in the retail industry to ask that lawmakers “do more to prevent these unwanted bots on retail sites,” something that lawmakers in the UK are indeed looking at.
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