Gamers of all ages stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to find it difficult to get their hands on a new Nintendo Switch, thanks to high demand and a rise in bulk purchases by resellers.
The shortage is driven by a few factors, including the hotly anticipated “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” release on March 20, worldwide social distancing mandates and a surge in bots buying up hundreds at once. Gaming publication GameSpot has been tracking the availability of the consoles for the last couple of weeks and notes that most major retailers are sold out. Stores including GameStop, Best Buy, Target and Walmart are all sold out of the console and its portable (not compatible with televisions) counterpart, the Switch Lite.
On Amazon, the console is sold out for now, though it’s worth noting that buyers might get it several weeks late, as the company is coping with higher-than-normal order volume by prioritizing “essential” deliveries and delaying less urgent orders.
VICE’s Motherboard reported Friday that an increasing number of people are using a particular program called Bird Bot to quickly buy several of the consoles at once.
“I decided to make it as a joke, but I quickly realized just how powerful it could be,” Bird Bot creator Nate Wong told Motherboard.
Bird Bot runs in the background of a user’s computer and immediately notifies them when the items are back in stock. The practice is common among online ticket brokers and some collectible sellers, but it’s driving up the price of the once-affordable console exponentially.
The Nintendo Switch typically retails for $300, while the Switch Lite costs around $200. Retailers like Walmart that still have the Switch Lite in stock are now selling them at a higher price than market value; up to $288 prior to taxes and fees.
A bundle including the Switch and a copy of the new “Animal Crossing” game, which usually sells for around $360 at the maximum, is being sold for $800 on eBay.
Nintendo, Target, Best Buy, Walmart and GameStop did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.