Though major retailers have been cleaned out of their launch-day stock, and supply is expected to be tightly manipulated through the holiday shopping season, the grey market has seen brisk business for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and unlike past console launches, prices have not been alarmingly out-of-hand.
While there are numerous eBay listings for both consoles with five-figure asking prices, many of these appear to be auctions donating some portion (or all) of the proceeds to charity. It appears most of the consoles that have changed hands so far have done so at reasonable prices not much above their MSRP.
In the week since its launch, from Nov. 15 to Nov. 22, eBay has moved more than 21,000 PlayStation 4s, according to the online retail tracking service TeraPeak, at an average price of $US425.50. It retails for $US399.00
Xbox One's average sale price on eBay has in fact been less than its $US499 MSRP — $US481.18, according to TeraPeak, though the tracking data it offers only goes to Nov. 21 — the day before the system launched. As such far fewer have sold — 4,467 overall, which are probably claims on a preorder rather than the actual unit. According to the latest data, $US2.7 million worth of Xbox Ones have sold over eBay — again, that's a pre-launch figure
At any rate, excluding novelty items, charity auctions or rare editions, like the white Xbox One being given to Microsoft employees, the grey market for new consoles looks nothing like it did in 2006, when supply shortages ballooned the PlayStation 3 market wildly — to an average sale price north of $US2,300 the day before its U.S. launch. It quickly collapsed to an average low that, a week before Christmas, still was $US125 more than its infamous $US599 MSRP.
Raging demand for the Wii in its launch year spiked grey market prices for the console to $US707 before its launch, and the 2007 holiday season figured to be more of the same until Nintendo put more systems onto shelves, cooling off the eBay action.
Craigslist is a bit harder to track and subject to anecdotally high instances (and, cops warn, transactions that can end with someone robbed or shot.) Listings in the San Francisco area went as high as $US1200 for a PS4 new-in-the-box, with the price going higher the later in the week the ad was posted. The same was largely true for both consoles in Chicago, Atlanta, Miami and other major cities, with some bundles pushing the high end price up to $US1200. Still, both it and the Xbox One can be found for not much more than their retail price.
Back on eBay, there are still plenty of insane five-figure listings for both consoles, hoping to catch someone with more money than brains, or perhaps spooked into thinking all the PS4s and Xbox Ones have been sold out through the end of the year. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these aren't attracting much bid attention so far.
Some are making charitable donations, through eBay itself, to organisations like The Wounded Warrior Project, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and even National Geographic. Others are handling that on their own. "THIS PURCHASE OF THIS ITEM WILL HELP UNFORTUNATE KIDS THAT DONT HAVE TOYS SO WE WILL B USING THIS MONEY FOR THAT ANY QUESTIONS CONTACT ME," reads one such listing. Seems legit. But then, for some rich guy looking to bag a PS4 and get a tax write-off in the process, he's probably not going to ask questions.
While it's intriguing to watch from the sidelines, the grey market is hardly the most economical option for a buyer right now. Major retailers listed both consoles in Black Friday circulars published long ago, and rumours suggest that stock is being held off the sales floor, to be deployed at specific times through a Black Friday shopping extravaganza that has now creeped back into Thanksgiving Day itself at some major chains.