A few weeks ago, the VICE website Motherboard shared a story about a checkout bot that was believed to be at least partly responsible for the current Nintendo Switch shortages within North America. If you missed our own coverage, it automatically notifies users when a system becomes available online at specific retailers within the US and then completes the order process.
The creator, at the time, said they made it as a joke, and then quickly realised how powerful the open-source tool actually was. Now, The Washington Post has run its own story about the teen behind the bot. It turns out he's only 16 years old, and since the original VICE story has apparently received quite a lot of criticism. In saying this, he stands by his creation:
Some people were calling me a scalper. It’s just basic supply and demand.
His mother shared her own thoughts – explaining how there have been "valid complaints" but also a lot of "angry" messages. She also acknowledged how resellers are admittedly selling systems at huge markup prices:
He wasn’t really prepared for how this took off. He’s been blamed for causing hoarding of the Switches. He’s gotten angry messages, requests for interviews — and someone even tried to steal his code and pass it off as his own.
My husband and I have helped him understand that there are valid complaints to be made. His actions have had consequences that he hadn’t thought about, sure. In some cases, you could alter the bot and snatch up toilet paper with it. It’s true that resellers are selling the devices at a huge markup.
The positive side of this story is that his tool has since been given the "thumbs-up" by some big-time software engineers, including one at Google. According to his mother, it's helped motivate him, and he now wants to study computer science at university:
really excited that a software engineer from Google ‘starred’ his autobot on GitBook. That has motivated him more to study computer science than any AP class could.
As we noted previously, there has been ongoing demand for the Switch and games like Ring Fit Adventure, since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. Increased prices online are also a result of factory closures. Nintendo recently apologised for the global shortages and has already promised more stock will be available soon.