Move over PlayStation 5! The Xbox Series X replica Mini Fridge is the new hotness for scalpers. The small refrigerator shaped like the Xbox Series X was originally based on memes about the console’s design, but now this ironic punchline has become yet another cautionary tale about the dangers of scalpers when it comes to popular digital marketplaces.
Every time pre-orders or restocks open for in-demand gaming consoles or peripherals, resellers and scalpers capitalize on the enthusiasm by buying up as much stock as they can. So it can feel impossible to purchase things like the PS5 legitimately.
While Microsoft tells Inverse that restocks are on the way this December and throughout 2022, the Xbox Mini Fridge scarcity and rampant aftermarket expose one of the worst trends in gaming today.
What happened — On October 19, 2021 at around 9:30 a.m., a $99.99 listing for the Xbox Mini Fridge appeared on Target's website. Within minutes, it was sold out and impossible to find for that same price anywhere else. Eager scalpers jumped on this opportunity, and the reseller market is already starting to take off for this mini-fridge that can't even play games.
On eBay, you can find people trying to resell their mini-fridge pre-sale at prices up to $350. If you want to buy the Xbox Mini Fridge now, you'll either have to pay Toynk $160 or buy it for even more money from a scalper. Microsoft tells Inverse that we can expect more hardware to show up online and in stores later this year.
“In addition to the pre-sale, the Xbox Mini Fridges will be available in-stores at Target in the US this December,” a PR representative says. “Though the majority of Xbox Mini Fridges will be available in-store at Target, we’ll also have another wave of Xbox Mini Fridges dropping on Target.com this December.”
Target also tells Inverse that it has tools in place to combat the bots scalpers might use to order Xbox Mini Fridges en masse. “We have many measures in place to protect our website from bots and continually enhance our tools and technology to track and block common bots.”
Why did this happen? Unfortunately, popular products quickly going out of stock is a familiar occurrence in nerd culture. Similar situations frequently unfold with consoles like the PS5, Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series S. It even happened with Szechuan Sauce from McDonald’s when the condiment was resurrected by a random joke from Rick and Morty.
As soon as a hot ticket item pops up on an online storefront, it's sold out within minutes. Often, they then show up for prices higher than average on reseller marketplaces shortly thereafter.
Global supply chain challenges and semiconductor shortages have already negatively impacted the availability of various tech products. Video game systems — and apparently the mini-fridges based on them — are not an exception to the rule. In fact, they are often even tougher to find.
There will always be thousands or even millions of gamers interested in whatever Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo put out next. Due to the high demand, it's a highly lucrative market for resellers or those looking to make a quick buck.
When you combine that eager fandom with grifters, real supply chain issues, and possibly a bit of artificial scarcity from the manufacturer's end, it's the perfect storm to create a miserable shopping experience.
The Xbox Mini Fridge was exclusive to Target too, which certainly made it feel like even more of a limited item than the latest consoles. This is simply the latest example of the dark side of the video game industry's resale market in action. Not even novelty products are immune to scalpers' iron grip.
What's next? As long as there is a limited supply and high demand for gaming products, like the Xbox Mini Fridge, we can expect this frustrating behavior to continue. An Xbox Wire post about the mini-fridge says that it "will arrive in multiple retailers globally in December 2021."
A PR representative discussed Microsoft’s plans for restocking the system in greater detail.
“The Xbox Mini Fridge will be available exclusively at Target and Target.com through March of 2022,” they say. “We’ll share more details as we look to expand availability in 2022.”
Hopefully, more stock becomes available as these Xbox Mini Fridge units are shipped out. If not, then the reseller market will only continue to worsen for a product that's little more than an in-joke for hardcore fans.