The Markup Economy

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For a few years now, something has been happening in the collectible and even gaming world that has given rise to a new secondary market for mainstream consumers: product scalping. There are people who stake out certain items and buy them—in bulk, if they can—simply to resell. Sure, people have been doing this with event tickets for years, but it was elevated to new heights with the toys-to-life boom that was kicked off by Skylanders and went on to include Disney Infinity, Lego Dimensions and Nintendo’s Amiibo.

The reselling of certain Skylanders and Amiibo figures saw fan communities investigate practices like employees buying up entire stocks of figures purely to resell online, and, in the process, denying legitimate fans and collectors even a shot at finding the figures they want. This led to consumers searching out new sources—like foreign variations of Amazon that ship to the states, and that practice became so widespread that Amazon actually had to restrict overseas buying.
As the toys-to-life boom started to die down, the perpetuators of this new market began to look elsewhere and realized that gaming, in nearly all its forms, was ripe for this kind of market, with limited editions of pretty much everything—controllers, games, systems and collectibles. But then they went further.

NVIDIA makes video cards. Video cards are the things that go into video game consoles and gaming computers that allow them to render graphics. NVIDIA recently released an incredibly cost effective, powerful and all around fantastic video card called the GeForce 1080. Very quickly, this video card became incredibly in demand, as many gamers saw it as the new benchmark for next generation hardware—something that went from a nice upgrade to a necessity. Enter the resellers.

So now resellers are buying video cards specifically to resell for hundreds and thousands of dollars more, skewing an entire marketplace. Consumers are reacting by skewing the ratings of the original producer, NVIDIA, across every marketplace they can—downrating them into oblivion just to make a point. NVIDIA, for its part, is trying to placate potential buyers with messages that essentially apologize for the “pricing confusion,” but there’s really not a lot it can do.

This looks like the “renting economy” is shifting to become more of a profit-centric economy. Less about helping your neighbor or mitigating your own cost and more about actually making money or even making a business out of it—entrepreneurism meets gray market, with a dash of opportunism.

It pays for even resellers to be on top of trends.

Adam Hails

Senior insights officer and cultural/behavioral analyst at Culturewaves.

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