GPU Bot Battle: Average Gamers Turn to Bots to Score an RTX 3080

Terminator head
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Tired of scalper bots claiming all the RTX 3080 stock the instant it goes live? Want to pre-order the new best graphics cards without needing to pay a several thousand dollar markup every time they launch? Now some gamers are turning to bots of their own to pounce on RTX 3080 cards as soon as they're available, thanks to Reddit users u/anewchange (Ian Armour on Github) and u/lordhenry85. But know that if you choose to join them, you might be opening Pandora's box in the process.

"After the debacle that was the launch last week of the 3080 and the aggressive attempts by scalpers to resell 3080s," Armour posted to the Nvidia subreddit late Sunday evening, "I decided to take some time to write a tool to help interested buyers get their hands on one of the 3000 series GPUs."

Armour's bot works by continually monitoring the inventory status of RTX 3000 series cards on Nvidia's website and automatically adding one to your cart as soon as it becomes available. You can also configure the bot to send you SMS messages when inventory goes live.

Lordhenry85's bot, which they posted to r/pcmasterrace late Sunday as well, is similar but runs locally on their computer and simply posts inventory updates to Twitter under the name @BotRtx. It also checks a wider variety of stores, including Newegg, Nvidia, Amazon, B&H, EVGA and Best Buy.

Neither bot will actually complete a purchase for you, so you'll have to finish your order manually. But the idea is to give "normal people" a chance to fight back against scalpers. Reactions on Reddit were initially positive- one commenter on the Nvidia subreddit said, "fighting fire with fire, I like it." But both bots broke the rules of their respective subreddits, and have since had their announcement posts taken down.

Upon thinking a little harder about the bots, it's not hard to see why. Armour's bot is open source on Github and doesn't cost anything, while scalper bots run by organizations like Bounce Alerts cost a $75 per month subscription. It's not hard to imagine scalpers reverse-engineering bots meant to fight them and turning them into free tools for them to use instead. Which, in turn, could create even more scalpers.

But it's an arms race, given how quickly scalpers claimed all of the 3080 stock once it went live. Even the average person might have to get their hands dirty to try to buy exciting new tech products at launch now. Some creators are more cautious about escalating the conflict than others - the thought of making bots mandatory to keep up with the tech landscape is why lordhenry85 didn't make their bot available to download. But others are less optimistic about the future.

"Hey if you can't beat em, join em," Armour posted in reply to a Reddit comment on their bot. "And make sure everybody else can too."

I never expected graphics cards to be what led to Skynet. Or, should I say, Buynet?

Michelle Ehrhardt

Michelle Ehrhardt is an editor at Tom's Hardware. She's been following tech since her family got a Gateway running Windows 95, and is now on her third custom-built system. Her work has been published in publications like Paste, The Atlantic, and Kill Screen, just to name a few. She also holds a master's degree in game design from NYU.

  • hotaru.hino
    If it becomes like this going forward, then I look forward to getting a video card +1 year after it launches.

    But hey, at least all of those people beta tested the product for me. 🙃
  • Meticulotron
    "When everyone's one will be."

    I haven't even tried to find one yet. I keep thinking, why can't the retailer prevent the bots? They could see the bot continuously checking and simply put temp blocks on those IP's. How is the bot getting away with buying multiples if orders were said to be limited to one per person anyway?
    the bot could change IPs? The block should still work unless the bot is changing IPs for every check.
    potential false positives for humans checking manually but too frequently? An unfortunate price to pay to level the playing field.
    Maybe not the best solution or even a good one, just thinking out loud.
  • neojack
    2020 is definitely a new decade huh.
    when humains can't compete with machines...

    here it's just about a GPU, but for some serious stuff, it would be an ethical problem.

    exemple :
    - for immigrating to canada from france, i had to signup to a special program called "PVT". about 15000 slots availlable once a year on the french governement's website.
    I had mine easily but a few years after me, i heard all slots were full just minutes after they were put online.
    that's the kind of situation were a dedicated person can write a bot wich would give an unfair avantage.

    - imagine for same situation for limited-supply vaccines or other life-treatening purposes ?

    well, i guess in a world where everything is managed on internet, developpers have more power than ever.
  • csm101
    what needs to be done is that law should be passed to make is illegal to sell new items such as new graphics cards, cup's etc, above the max price stated in the original retailer site. when that is in place selling to high prices at sites like ebay become illegal' and in turn those sites will also put a ban on those products. so that will get rid of these scalpers for good. i personally trolled some of the listings in the ebay by putting bids so that the price goes high where no one will be paying that amount to get a new RTX card. sometimes you do need to fight fire with fire.
  • JamesSneed
    hotaru.hino said:
    If it becomes like this going forward, then I look forward to getting a video card +1 year after it launches.

    But hey, at least all of those people beta tested the product for me. 🙃

    I'm just going to wait for Navi read reviews and buy something November time frame once I decide on Nvidia or an AMD card. I'm in no hurry to be first. I did the same when I built a Ryzen 1800x machine 3 months after launch. Was nice most of the BIOS kinks were resolved.
  • digitalgriffin
    I noticed the same situation for the coolermaster NR200P and NR200 series cases. Ever since reviewers have praised this case, it's been impossible to find at less than $159. Some are $179 which is twice the MSRP. I found some for $10 over MSRP, but that lasted quite literally < 1 hour before they sold out. They are also advertising middle of October as a delivery which means they are full of @#$#@.

    I'm not paying that price. For that price I can get a boutique brand all aluminum case that is of higher quality.
  • treeface
    I know and realise I'm just stating the obvious, but if no one bought the cards at hiked up prices from Ebay or 3rd party sellers at Amazon then these scalpers would be less inclined to do this activity. I get that people are impatient and want to get their hands on the card for their new builds, but participating in spending 15-40% over the stock prices is perpetuating the greed by the scalpers.
  • bigdragon
    I agree with the whole "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach. A bot is now required to get tech toys like high-end graphics cards, game consoles, and certain other products. I had to use one to buy a Quest earlier this year (during the lockdowns, before the whole Facebook account thing). The idea of running a purchase bot on my personal server seems inevitable given all the market manipulation going on.
  • Exia00
    Times like these i am glad that there are local PC shops that doesn't do deliveries and when they bring out new items it is always 1 per customer/household and there are some sites as well that does prevent the use of bots to get items.
  • Avro Arrow
    I find all of this very entertaining actually because early adopters are, for the most part, the biggest NOOBs on the planet. Guys like me who have been around awhile know that it's the worst thing that you can be. We don't like flying blind because we've seen the results of it either first-hand or we've read enough about it to avoid it like the plague. Never be an early adopter and never buy something when something else is just around the corner unless you have no other choice (that can happen sometimes, like if something fails out of the blue).

    Now just imagine...

    Scenario #1 - You've already gone through hell to get this shiny new piece of engineering and discover that the first set of drivers are awful and the card is more or less unusable. You're stuck sitting there with a rather expensive paperweight until better drivers are released and can't play the game that you've been dying to play.
    Scenario #2 - You've bought a new card only to discover that it's too low-end for its ray-tracing to really work and then, a few weeks later, your card's competition releases products that delete your card.
    Scenario #3 - You bought an RTX 2080 Ti in the past six months.
    Knowledge is power and people who go nutz to get the newest thing on the block when something else is coming out soon after have no knowledge and no power so they get screwed more than anyone else. If they're lucky, they eventually learn not to do this but not all are smart enough to learn life's little lessons.

    Even if I did want an RTX 3080, I would wait for the RX 6900 XT release because there's no way that it would cause the price of the RTX 3080 to go up but there's a very good chance that it would make the RTX 3080's price go down. Seeing something like this is like watching a flat-Earther trying to fly. It's puzzling yet hilarious at the same time and always ends with me saying "WELL, DUHHHH!" :ROFLMAO: