In context: When Nintendo's ever-popular Switch console first hit the market, the company struggled to keep units on store shelves. Now, during the Covid-19 epidemic, it seems Nintendo is facing a second wave of demand. Over the course of March and April, Switch stock seems to have plummeted.
This has made it incredibly difficult to grab one of the consoles for your family to enjoy during the long hours of isolation that many of us now face. According to a report from Motherboard, the reason for this shortage is not just human demand (though that's part of it, in a way), but robots.
You read that right: scalpers are using a tool called "Bird Bot" to automatically purchase Switch consoles en masse, and at speeds that no human could possibly compete with. As soon as a digital storefront restocks its supply of Switches, these individuals snag them and then attempt to sell them at up to double (or more) their original price.
And, apparently, it's working: Motherboard says some Switches have been auctioned off for as much as $750, which is quite the difference compared to their usual $300 MSRP.
Bird Bot is completely free to use, and it was designed specifically for Switch buyers. It's not the most accessible software in the world, setup-wise; you'll need some basic tech knowledge to get it up and running. However, thanks to the detailed installation guides provided by Bird Bot's creators, anyone with the cash and drive to begin flipping Switches can do so.
Obviously, ordinary customers aren't exactly pleased with this trend. One individual even took to building his own Switch from scratch, and published a guide explaining how to follow in his lead. At the end of his guide, he left a small note to the Switch resellers out there: "...screw you if you are one of the bad guys making a buck off of a crisis."
Whether you agree with the use of Bird Bot to resell marked-up Switches or not, it doesn't look like the practice will stop anytime soon. Even if sites like Walmart and Best Buy (prime targets for Bird Bot users) build protections against Bird Bot, a new alternative will likely take its place soon enough.