Nov. 18, 2013 at 5:50 PM ET
Scalpers are turning to eBay and Craigslist to try to cash in the demand for the next-generation gaming consoles from Sony and Microsoft.
The brand new PlayStation 4 and soon-to-be-released Xbox One are all over the online classifieds, listed for hundreds of dollars more than they officially cost. Consumers who fail to find them at online retailers or on store shelves have little choice but to pay extra or wait. Their desperation means dollars for second-hand sellers whose perseverance in acquiring the consoles is paying off.
Carlos Fernandez, 24, of New York, told NBC News he has sold 13 Sony PlayStation 4 units since Friday through eBay, Craigslist and other online services.
"It's something I do once in a blue moon," he said, adding that he has done the same with other hot tech items, like the iPad.
Instead of pre-ordering the PlayStation 4, Fernandez said he approached people walking out of stores like Best Buy or Wal-Mart, and then offered them $30 or more than what they paid for their consoles.
He then flipped them for at least $100 more than retail, selling one for as high as $650.
On Monday, there were nearly 5,000 listings on eBay for the Xbox One, which will be released on Nov. 22 with a starting price of $499. There were more than 25,000 listings for the PS4, which was released last Friday for $399.
The anticipation for the new systems has been high. On Monday, Sony announced that it had sold 1 million units of its new console on the first day of its release. That kind of demand means shoppers looking to buy the PS4 online from other commerce sites like Amazon.com, Target.com and BestBuy.com haven't had much luck. While some units are available in stores, many are sold out. That means sites like eBay could be the last alternative for people looking to buy one from the comfort of their own homes.
So what is that going to cost? The same PS4 package that sells for $400 in stores is pulling in as much as $650 on eBay and Craigslist in the New York City area. However, there seems to be a limit to how much scalpers can get at the moment: One seller on Craigslist complained that he had received zero offers to buy one for $800.
A PS4, advertised as "brand new in box, never opened," sold on Monday on eBay for $510 after 28 bids, a sign that eager fans don't need to cough up more than $600 if they are willing to keep their finger on the "Place bid" button.
As for the Xbox One, online re-sellers are securing pre-orders (sometimes from multiple retailers) and then promising to ship them on release day. So far, the consoles have pre-sold on eBay for more than $650, with some optimistic sellers asking for thousands of dollars.
For Fernandez — despite one shady interaction at a Queens shopping mall in which buyers kept trying to coax him outside, then started yelling when he wouldn't oblige — flipping game consoles has been worth the effort.
"By the time it's all said and done, I will probably make $3,000 for a week and a half of work," he said. "You can't really beat that."
Keith Wagstaff writes about technology for NBC News. He previously covered the tech beat for TIME's Techland and wrote about politics as a staff writer at TheWeek.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @kwagstaff and reach him by email at: Keith.Wagstaff@nbcuni.com