Since we first published this story, prices at Amazon for the Nintendo Switch have continued to rise. Our update can be found here.
Price gougers have sent prices of everything from face masks to hand sanitizer soaring during the coronavirus pandemic. But the latest scheme is pointed at stuck-at-home consumers looking for some entertainment. Prices of the Nintendo ($TYO:7974) Switch videogame console are seeing a major run on price at Amazon ($NASDAQ:AMZN), in some cases by as much as 62% above retail.
We looked at more than 93,000 individual SKU records going back to 2016 and discovered that, beginning on March 13, prices for the Nintendo Switch at Amazon began a steep rise above normal retail levels.
The console, which normally sells for $299 (and has never risen above that Nintendo-set MSRP at Amazon until now), is averaging $452 as Amazon marketplace merchants take advantage of the demand. In several cases, the console is going for more than $485, which comes out to $186, or 62%, above retail. On average, Switch prices have risen 52% at Amazon since March 13, 2020.
The steep rise in price comes in a recent spat of price gouging at Amazon that allows vendors to set prices and outbid one another for the dollars of desperate shoppers. In other cases, prices of N95 price masks soared among hundreds of opportunistic merchants.
Amazon has repeatedly assured media outlets that it is staying ahead of price gougers, and while some data supports that, pricing swings seen here — along with rote product searches on Amazon.com — reveal that the e-commerce giant either can't keep up with the gougers or it is, in fact, doing little to curb the practice.
Unlike face masks and hand sanitizer, pricing doesn't appear to be a function of scarcity: at least 87 vendors have the console for sale at prices high above the $299 retail.
Nintendo Switch prices began to soar when reports in early March noted that the Coronavirus outbreak was affecting new shipments of stock from Asia. Third-party sellers were quick to take advantage, sending prices up as we're seeing here. In an attempt to make amends, Nintendo offered up refurbished units for just $259 at its official store, but the stock quickly sold out.
Price gouging on the Nintendo Switch isn't completely unique to Amazon: the stock has dwindled and prices have increased dramatically at Walmart.com, which also allows third-party vendors to get in front of shoppers and, perhaps most importantly here, set their own prices. In one case, a Switch is for sale at Walmart.com for $499.
There is a major difference between the two merchants when it comes to third-party sellers, however. At Walmart ($NYSE:WMT), the price-gouged consoles are not showing up in Walmart's best-seller lists. At Amazon, however, both first- and third-party items share the same SKU. As of writing, the Switch is the 14th best-selling videogame product at Amazon at a price of $464.99. At Walmart.com, the Switch has fallen off of its sales rank chart as first-party inventory has dwindled.
Similarly, at Gamestop.com, which lacks a third-party marketplace, prices have held despite a lack of inventory. Instead, the company is setting shipping gates in the future when it expects supply.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.