Anyone who has tried to buy a GPU these past seven months or so has probably had an unkind word or seven for the bots and scalpers that have made GPU, CPU, and console purchases miserable since the fall of 2020.
Our sister site PCMag decided to go behind the griping we’ve all been doing and actually analyze what it was like to purchase one of these products, what the user experience looks like, and whether or not bots were actually able to deliver on their promise of landing you a GPU.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the term: Last year, end users looking to buy hard-to-find PC GPUs and consoles began using bots that had been developed for the sneaker collecting market to search for and purchase other products. The allure of these bots and botting groups is that they offer the opportunity to purchase goods immediately after (or sometimes even before) they formally go on sale. End users typically pay a recurring fee (monthly or weekly) for bot access, which may include regular software updates, community membership, and access to so-called “cook groups” where bot users share tips and tricks for landing products.
After shucking out $120 for two weeks of access to one specific bot (Stellar) and $25 more to purchase proxies for the bot to better aid it in placing orders that could escape the detection networks in place at various online retailers, PCMag reports back with good news — well, good if you dislike botting and scalping, at any rate. While the bot did succeed at placing a few orders, the orders that it did place were correctly detected as fraudulent by the anti-botting measures in place at various retailers. The $150 investment over a two-week period (!) didn’t result in a successful GPU purchase, though the author was able to coincidentally place a successful order for a 6700 XT directly with AMD during the same time frame without any use of a bot at all.
Author Michael Kan describes his experience thusly: “I can’t fault Stellar entirely, though. I’m a newbie, and I was botting in my spare time during and after work. I never went all out like veteran scalpers can do by using numerous proxies, multiple fake user accounts, and dozens of virtual credit card numbers to try and beat the anti-bot measures from the major retailers.”
This is objectively excellent news. If shucking out $150 in two weeks and “only” botting in your spare time after work isn’t enough to pick up a sale, it suggests that only a handful of people are actually making this work in the first place. The downside is that the handful of people who do make it work could still be having an outsized impact on the market. Kan remarks that the market makes much more sense if you’re attempting to do this as an experienced scalper rather than as an ordinary user trying to buy a GPU.
Right now, shortages in the GPU market are expected to last until 2022 at the earliest. It is not clear if the situation will begin to improve in the next few months and then slowly taper towards normality, or if it’ll take until the end of the year for things to even start moving back towards normal.
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