In the past 12 months, electronics stores have come under increasing fire and scrutiny for mishandling the way they sell brand new consoles and high-end PC components. This week, online retailer Newegg has moved forward with a quirky new system for selling high-demand, low-supply electronics: the Newegg Shuffle. (Or, as the site’s metadata puts it, the Newegg Popular Product Lottery Queue.)
If you get this article early enough on Friday, January 22nd, take it as a suggestion to drop everything and hurry to the site before 5pm ET and place a product purchase request. Seriously, do that right now if you’re interested in recent AMD CPUs, Nvidia GPUs, or the all-digital PlayStation 5. It’s free to try. We wait.
OK, so that process may have been a little confusing. What’s up with the Newegg Shuffle?
Shuffle in a forced bundle? Not necessarily, but probably
The Newegg Shuffle buzz started earlier this week when savvy shoppers noticed a limited-time raffle event under the same name in messages sent to a limited pool of Newegg customers. It advertised a variety of CPUs and graphics cards, and the home page featured a sales pitch: choose what to buy, sign up with your established Newegg customer profile, and submit a request. Do this for a set amount of time and within a few hours you will be notified if your account has been selected to purchase one of your chosen products. (This means you could try to sign up for every offer, or just one, without the choices apparently changing your chances of being selected at random.)
However, the problems with that early test came in the form of outraged customers sharing images of what the store interface actually looked like. After you click on the offer for a shiny new AMD processor or an Nvidia RTX 3080 graphics card, you will get the Real store option: a forced bundle. Every option seemed to require purchasing a brand new motherboard, even if you didn’t need one. That was especially glaring in the case of Nvidia’s graphics cards, which are compatible with the common PCI-e 3.0 standard and thus don’t require a new motherboard for interested PC gamers.
When PC Mag pushed for this anti-consumer, forced bundle promotion, Newegg clarified that the Shuffle feature was still in “beta.” The promotion would reduce the number of forced bundles once it is rolled out to all customers. The launch of Newegg Shuffle on Friday confirmed this, but there are still a few forced bundles.
Both currently available AMD CPUs, the Ryzen 5 5600X and Ryzen 7 5800X, can be purchased as standalone options. However, they are also listed with bundles, and that essentially means you have a better chance of buying them from Newegg if you’re willing to tie a motherboard purchase to the CPU. The same goes for one of the promotion’s GPUs, an ASUS flavor of the RTX 3070, which can be purchased either à la carte or with a bundled ASUS motherboard.
Three other GPUs appear in the promotion; two of them can only be bought a la carte and one, the ASUS RTX 3080, can only be bought with a bundled ASUS motherboard (for a whopping $1,179.98).
And the all-digital PlayStation 5 on offer can nothing but can be purchased as part of a bundle, adding a whopping $160 to the regular price of $399 with an extra controller (sure), a 1080p webcam (meh), and a media remote (ugh). It’s serious GameStop vibes, and not in a good way.
Microsoft takes leadership in space
The worst thing about Newegg Shuffle is that it is arguably the best system currently on the market for interested PC parts buyers. Otherwise, it’s best to follow the well-known Twitter accounts and online shopping guides to find out exactly when high-end computer components and consoles are in stock – since retailers seem to have no interest at all, you know, by letting us know in advance. order things and enter a purchase queue.
The only exception to this frenzy seems to be Xbox Series X/S. Microsoft has developed a somewhat scalper-proof procurement system in the form of Xbox All Access. Combine a monthly subscription price with a dedicated Xbox account (and matching mailing address) and you can get your hands on a shiny new Xbox. Such systems are inconvenient for scalpers to transfer ownership of an account. (As a bonus, buying a Series X/S this way can save you money compared to buying the hardware and associated subscription fees at retail prices.)
Until we see more retailers embrace customer verification systems, purchase limits, and anti-scalper efforts, we’ll likely see more funky “lottery” systems like Newegg’s, complete with predatory bundle enticement offers.