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How Bots Took Over the RTX 3080 Launch

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Founders Edition product images
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 launched yesterday, then promptly sold out in 5 minutes according to stores like Newegg and in 15 seconds according to some very disappointed would-be customers who weren’t able to place an order. The likely culprit? Bots run by scalpers. The evidence is pretty cut and dry, but now thanks to the folks at PC Mag, we have admissions from the people running the bots, as well as an explanation for how exactly they snatched so many units away from folks hoping to get the new best graphics card.

In an article published yesterday, PC Mag spoke to the people behind Bounce Alerts, as well as a few of their customers, about how the company’s automated purchasing bots work. For the uninitiated, Bounce Alerts is a service that members can subscribe to for $75 a month which then gives them access to scripts that monitor store pages and automatically purchase items when they go in stock. The company first sprung up in the sneakers market, but there’s nothing stopping savvy resellers from applying it to tech as well.

Bounce Alerts first came up as a culprit for hogging the 3080 launch when some resellers took to Twitter to publicly thank the company. Some of these posts have since been deleted, probably to avoid orders being cancelled by Nvidia, but others are still up. One particular deleted post, which PC Mag caught in a screenshot before it got taken down, showed a reseller who managed to buy 42 units thanks to the script.

“Our job at Bounce Alerts was to ensure our customers were able to purchase the product for their needs,” an admin for the company told PC Mag. “When given the chance, I’m sure most people would purchase more than 10+ units if they have the capital and look to make upwards of $25,000+ in one single day from [the] secondary market.”

Right.

The admin also said customers should blame limited stock on the pandemic, rather than on scalpers.

A Bounce Alerts member was a bit more candid with the publication, giving the magazine insight into the actual bot ordering process. The member said that the bot works by running “an automated script to run basically from the product page to payment information and then to checkout.” They added that there it does have a noticeable flaw, though, in that the product page needs to stay live for the bot to keep working- “Whenever the site died [from too much traffic], I would have to restart the script and hope for it just to get through on the next one.”

Still the member told PC Mag that they spoke with others in the community who were able to get anywhere from 1 - 30 cards, despite the busy store page. They also estimated that more than 100 people used the bot on launch day.

More legitimate customers have since flooded the Nvidia forums in the hours following the launch, leaving messages of disappointment. One user claimed “I waited up for 35 hours waiting on this card just for bots to take over [the] site, that’s not fair at all.”

Bounce Alerts’ response? “Like Nvidia, we’re also a high demand product and we sell out. We have hundreds to thousands of users waiting for us to open the doors to invite more individuals to our group,” an admin for the company told PC Mag.

Nvidia declined to comment on Bounce Alerts’ bots when PC Mag reached out with questions, but did tell the publication that it is manually reviewing RTX 3080 orders to try to weed out scalpers and bots. The GPU maker also told the outlet that it does limit RTX 3080 orders to one per customer, though Bounce Alerts countered that it’s come up with ways to circumvent these limits.

With the pandemic limiting customers from just going to brick and mortar stores to snatch up purchases by hand, product launches are more vulnerable to online bot orders than ever. Like in high frequency stock trading, even the fastest, most diligent customers can’t hope to keep up with the speeds these bots have. If manufacturers want their products to actually make their way to people who intend to use them rather than just mark them up, they’re going to have to up their anti-scalping protections, and fast.

  • bigdragon
    There has got to be a way to counter these bots. I feel like the big stores make little to no effort to beat them, and the manufacturers don't care if middlemen artificially inflate prices.

    A coworker of mine runs bots and is bragging about securing 6 3080s and 11 PS5s. He's been scalping since the spring pandemic lockdowns. No trips or vacations means extra money to fool around with. He "generously" offered to sell me a 3080 for a fraction of the "usual markup." No. He's also stunned that I would use it for personal gaming instead of resell it. Apparently you can now sell a preorder of a preorder of a 3080 on Ebay -- people are playing these things like Mortgage-Backed Securities during the financial crisis over a decade ago! WTF? I hate people these days.

    I'm looking for a way to report this guy to Nvidia or Sony, or find some sort of HR violation. I hate scalpers. I hate it even more when the go to excuse is "hate the game, not the player."
    Reply
  • salgado18
    bigdragon said:
    There has got to be a way to counter these bots. I feel like the big stores make little to no effort to beat them, and the manufacturers don't care if middlemen artificially inflate prices.
    I know the effort is not quite there, since the sales benefit them too. But tech is very hard to counter. When they counter these bots, the bot developer just stays up late until he can circumvent the new methods. Without people in the process, countering cheaters (cheaters, bots, pirates, etc) is just a cat and mouse game.
    Reply
  • RealBeast
    This is entirely the fault of NVIDA; like they didn't know this would happen. Why no pre-order lottery with a real limit of one that could be checked ahead of time?

    The best solution for buyers now is to NOT pay $1500+ and just wait until there is enough supply -- in other words to punish the bot users by not buying at inflated prices.
    Reply
  • USAFRet
    RealBeast said:
    This is entirely the fault of NVIDA; like they didn't know this would happen. Why no pre-order lottery with a real limit of one that could be checked ahead of time?

    The best solution for buyers now is to NOT pay $1500+ and just wait until there is enough supply -- in other words to punish the bot users by not buying at inflated prices.
    The launch was 100% successful.
    They sold ALL of the existing stock, and generated significant buzz and media articles.

    When the next batch comes in stock, people will line up to buy those. Even those people who are complaining about yesterdays sales.
    They will flock.
    Reply
  • GenericUser
    I'm going to guess tight anti-bot measures weren't taken, or a more "fair" system wasn't put into place is because there really isn't a major incentive for the companies to do so. Ultimately, whether the sale goes to a bot or a real person is irrelevant to the seller because it's still money either way. If a sale is made, why do they care who gave them the money for it? Unless the purchases were made with stolen credit card info, it's all the same money to them in the end. Once the product is off their hands, it's not really their problem anymore as far as they're concerned. Plus, money spent on anti-bot measures is money wasted on solving something that isn't really a problem for them in the first place.

    The only effective solution that's in the power of most people is to simply not buy the cards from the scalpers at inflated rates and force them to abandon their business model. This will never happen however, since there will always be enough people willing to pay the marked up prices and keep the business model viable for them, so the next best thing for someone not looking to pay exorbitant prices is to just hold onto their money, and tough it out until the supply stabilizes.
    Reply
  • csm101
    anyone with good knowledge on bots should start an anti bot company and sells it to e tailors for a annual price. pretty sure in the long run this company will thrive because it will see as a company that help the common human customer and not the greedy <Mod Edit> who want to re sell items in an inflated price.
    Reply
  • e-nigma
    I called ebay and complained, but I doubt they will do anything. I saw one listing close at $13,000. Really.
    I read that another sold for $70,000. 70K. That's not a typo.

    I also contacted newegg by chat, (and email) and the rep failed to see the problem, and she admitted they did NOT even set a 1-2 per person quanity for purchase. WHAT? Newegg, have you gone soft? I've seen them limit quantities on countless products, and they didn't do it for the most anticipated video card in years?

    I'm beyond pissed, and I'm sure when they get back in stock, it's just going to happen again. Who knows when any of us are going to get a card.

    What's almost as bad to me is the people buying these on ebay at 2-20 times the cost. Why on Earth would anyone validate scalpers and reward them for theft???? Boggles the mind.
    Reply
  • e-nigma
    RealBeast said:
    This is entirely the fault of NVIDA; like they didn't know this would happen. Why no pre-order lottery with a real limit of one that could be checked ahead of time?

    The best solution for buyers now is to NOT pay $1500+ and just wait until there is enough supply -- in other words to punish the bot users by not buying at inflated prices.

    I blame newegg too for not selling a per customer limit. They've done this on countless other products, but not this?

    Who else but a scalper scumbag, would buy 30 video cards at once?
    Reply
  • hotaru.hino
    bigdragon said:
    There has got to be a way to counter these bots. I feel like the big stores make little to no effort to beat them, and the manufacturers don't care if middlemen artificially inflate prices.

    A coworker of mine runs bots and is bragging about securing 6 3080s and 11 PS5s. He's been scalping since the spring pandemic lockdowns. No trips or vacations means extra money to fool around with. He "generously" offered to sell me a 3080 for a fraction of the "usual markup." No. He's also stunned that I would use it for personal gaming instead of resell it. Apparently you can now sell a preorder of a preorder of a 3080 on Ebay -- people are playing these things like Mortgage-Backed Securities during the financial crisis over a decade ago! WTF? I hate people these days.

    I'm looking for a way to report this guy to Nvidia or Sony, or find some sort of HR violation. I hate scalpers. I hate it even more when the go to excuse is "hate the game, not the player."
    I was reading a comment related to counterfeit bourbon rings about someone who purchased "black market whiskey." Said person tried to drink it but it wasn't drinkable and when they complained to the seller, the seller went "black market whiskey's for selling, not drinking."

    Feeling the same vibe here, but at least the GPUs are legitimate and usable, unlike what was likely turpentine in the story.
    Reply
  • neojack
    Nvidia will be tempted to inflate prices now...
    70k a piece..

    Edit : apprently bouncealerts.com is a wepage presenting their business. it's a private discord server with paid access.
    all access are soldout but one of the members can resell it's access for 100's or 1000's

    shady
    Reply