The 2020 holiday shopping season has been defined by how difficult it is to purchase consoles like the PS5 and GPUs like the GeForce RTX 3090, prompting some people to use other, less legal methods to get both products. Bots account for some of the consoles up for resale, but theft is apparently another source.
Around $340,000 worth of GeForce RTX 3090 GPUs were stolen from MSI, according to Tom’s Hardware. That amounts to 40 containers of the popular cards, based off the translation of an internal document from MSI embedded in the tweet below.
MSI Chinese mainland factory was stolen, stolen 40 boxes RTX3090, the total value of 2200000RMB ......— 夕惕若厉 (@GoFlying8) December 7, 2020
MSI has been officially announced and informed to the police ,Reward of 100000 RMB for reporting effective information. pic.twitter.com/JWw8hOMioG
The GeForce RTX 3090 sits at the high end of of Nvidia’s line at $1,499, and often sells for hundreds of dollars more on eBay, which seems like enough motivation to steal them. What’s less clear is how these cards were stolen. Tom’s Hardware says that MSI’s communications cite video surveillance and inspections of each truck as the main security for GPUs shipping out of warehouses. This has led MSI to believe company “insiders” are the thieves, but there hasn’t been any information provided other than that document in the tweet, which is dated Friday, December 4th.
On the PS5 side of things, thefts in the UK have involved a method that seems far more dramatic and dangerous. In a maneuver The Times refers to as a “rollover”, thieves use cars, one in front of a delivery truck and one behind, to slow down the truck from the front and open its back while standing on the hood of the car that’s following. This method reportedly requires some kind of insider information about what’s actually in a given truck, but The Times says it’s been used 27 times this year, increasing in frequency as holiday shipments have started to carry more and more expensive products. You can see an example of a “rollover” in a video from Romania above.
Happy #PS5 day everyone. Tried to document our one’s unveiling, but Amazon have tricked us with an unsolicited air fryer instead (after giving delivery password). Anyone else had this problem today? pic.twitter.com/99IUSzSJUU— Bex April May (@bexlectric) November 19, 2020
In another likely theft, Amazon PS5 buyers received air fryers, cat litter and other household objects instead of the console. IGN found a collection of customers who received a “PS5” box with resealed tape different from Amazon’s traditional Prime-branded black version. Conversations with current Amazon employees suggested that it would be very difficult to smuggle PS5s out of an Amazon warehouse, but it’s possible the consoles were switched out from the delivery trucks. IGN’s full odyssey is worth a read, but as of now, affected customers are receiving actual PS5s, and the culprits remain unknown.
Getting a PS5 or GeForce RTX card at this point requires dealing with prices higher than what both products retail for. Given that you can't just easily buy one at a store, the true prices aren’t $499 for a PS5 and $1,499 for a GeForce RTX 3090, but what they cost at resale. We saw average prices of the PS5 reach $1,024 and GeForce RTX 3090 averaging $2,076 when we last surveyed eBay. You can start to see why both products have become the targets of thieves.
If there’s any lesson to be learned besides “don’t steal,” it’s that sellers and manufacturers need to offer ways to make pre-orders and sales more fair. The pandemic has impacted the amount of consoles and graphics cards that can be safely manufactured, but creating scarcity with limited restocks only worsens the problem. Until there’s an easier method to guarantee a purchase, reselling, and the occasional theft that helps it happen, will continue.