Trusted Reviews has been documenting the bizarre Switch shortage for just over a month – now a new report from Motherboard has revealed that a big chunk of consoles aren’t being swiped by real-life people, but by cleverly deployed bots working to turn a profit.
The publication has managed to trace a number of Switch sales in the US back to a group of Discord users, mostly relying on a tool called ‘Bird Bot’. Users share tips and advice in the Discord channels, and use the tool to stock up on Switches whenever a fresh batch hits the online shelves.
Some users are using the bot to track down a Switch for personal use, but others openly admit that they are using bots to swipe stock and resell for profit.
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Speaking to Joseph Cox from Vice, the original developer of the bot said: “Me and my friends were talking about reselling Nintendo Switches, and at one point my friend, nicknamed Bird, told me I should make a bot. And here we are today.”
Bird Bot isn’t the only tool being used to track Switches; Scottbot, Swift, and Phantom were also mentioned in the Discord channels. Phantom even confirmed that its bot had been used to buy 500 Switches within its first 24 hours of deployment.
What sets Bird Bot apart from the above competitors is its price – the developer has made it completely free to use, so anyone can use it.
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At the moment it looks like the bots are focused on US stores, with users targeting Walmart and Best Buy. There are various bots deployed across other countries too, but historically they’ve focused on sneaker releases or tickets for live events.
Demand for the Switch has skyrocketed recently, thanks to a combination of the monstrously popular Animal Crossing enforced quarantine. Unsurprisingly, some bad eggs on the internet have used this opportunity to pump prices, selling the console for as much as £400, which is £100 above retail cost.
In the UK, you can still grab the original Nintendo Switch for retail price at Argos, and the Switch Lite is available at various outlets.
Hopefully, other countries will soon see a boom in stock too, as reports from Nikkei indicate that the company is gearing up to increase production by 10%.