This Week In Games is a weekly column where Vikki Blake pulls apart the biggest stories in gaming each week. This week, she’s looking at the impact of scalpers on gamers and wonders why the industry doesn’t work harder to discourage them.
Last Friday, God Of War: Ragnarok‘s collector’s editions went up for pre-order. And last Friday, dozens of God of War: Ragnarok collector’s editions began popping up on eBay.
The fanciest version – the Jotnar Edition which could only be purchased through Game here in the UK – costs £230. Well, more accurately, it did cost £230, at least for those lucky enough to have secured a copy when the pre-orders went live. For everyone else, we’re now at the mercy of scalpers. Right now, at best, you’re looking at a £200-ish mark-up and a sale price of around £450. At worst, you can stick another £150 onto that.
I know I’ve complained about Game here before, but only because it seems to be the only retailer in the UK that secures exclusive collector’s editions and I have been routinely let-down by them time after time, year after year. So even though I’d rather pull my left eye out with an ice cream scoop than voluntarily give them money, I often end up having to voluntarily give them a lot of money because what I want literally isn’t available anywhere else.
Sure, I could not buy Collector’s Editions, I guess. No, I didn’t need the life-sized replica of Corvo’s mask that shipped with Dishonored 2‘s Collector’s Edition, much like I didn’t need that pretty – and pretty pointless – Destiny 2 Collector’s Edition, either. My The Last of Us Part 2 figurine is still in the box. I’ve always been a sucker for those things, though.
I don’t suppose any of us were surprised when God of War: Ragnarok‘s Jotnar Edition sold out in just five minutes any more than we were surprised when the less fancy – but still expensive – Collector’s Edition was gone just half an hour later, too. I have no idea of the quantities that were available, but – as is often the case with these days – demand clearly outstripped supply.
It’s annoying enough when publishers limit both the quantities of their CEs and retailers from which you can buy them; it’s quite another when you miss out in the scrum not because of the competition with other fans, but because of some dickcheese scalper and his bulk-buying bot.
If it’s not already painfully clear, this absolutely enrages me. Like: life isn’t hard enough already, you know? Everything is shit, constantly, all the time. It may wax and wane with the day and the weather and how cool your boss/partner/parent has been today, but we’re living – well, existing – at a time of perpetual crisis, lurching from one once-in-a-lifetime event to another at a dizzying tempo. Sure, we all have to make a living. Sure, times are tough, and we’d all love a little extra cash this summer. But doing so at the cost of someone else’s happiness? Buying up as much “limited” stock as you can so you can sell it on for more than double the original price? Fuck you, bud. What you call capitalism, I call being a selfish prick.
Occasionally, a scalper will lift their head out of the sty just long enough to wail about the differences between luxuries and necessities – oh, won’t someone please think of the poor scalpers! – but nothing they say will ever make up for the misery they intentionally inflict on gamers. I’m not saying that blowing 230 quid on a digital code and a handful of plastic collectibles is the smartest way to spend your money, but as I said: life is shit. If paying a little extra for your favourite video game and getting bonus tat (as someone who is typing this from a room bursting with such tat, I say that with love) makes you temporarily happy, then go for it, my friend.
The most frustrating part of this is, none of it is a surprise. It’s not even inevitable. Valve – having watched first-hand how “smoothly” the PS5 and Xbox Series X pre-orders went six months prior – put in some basic steps to try and circumvent this happening when pre-orders for its delicious little handheld, Steam Deck, went on sale this time last year. You had to already have a Steam account to be eligible and while no, it wasn’t flawless and lessons can still be learnt, at least Valve tried. At least there was an attempt to stop this shit from happening.
It feels like the only people here who suffer are us: gamers. The publishers sell out their pre-orders – maybe even generating a few tasty headlines about their super-popular CEs along the way – auction sites get their commission, and scalpers – wankers selling pre-orders before they even own the game, by the way – overcharge fans. Sure, we could collectively agree not to give in and pay over the odds, but my frustration lies not with the fans who reluctantly overpay but the publishers selling these “limited editions” in the first place.
Valve has shown that with a little foresight, hobbling scalpers can be done. So why aren’t other companies and publishers trying to do so, too?
- That new kitty game is out: Our Stray review is here, and we reckon it’s “a stunning sci-fi fable that forfeits its full potential”. You can play it right now for no extra cost if you subscribe to PlayStation Plus Premium or Extra.
- A new The Cloud Strife figure goes on sale in November 2023… although the Final Fantasy 7 action figure will be sold with NFT that buyers may “lose access to”, which sounds like such a great deal, doesn’t it? (This is why I hate NFTs).
- Ubisoft has cancelled a couple of upcoming projects, and announced delays for others: while most of the big publishers are starting to recover from the pandemic, Ubisoft seems to be a little slower than most. Here’s hoping the Splinter Cell remake is good.