Merry Material Christmas

As a gamer dad and product design professional, every Christmas has a great product lesson for me on the subject of supply and demand. This Christmas the two hottest toys make their mark on my consciousness, as it has many a parent with an eager mini geek that takes after them. The PS5/XSX rush and global sellout is yet another a example of how people deal with scarcity.

Within the context of the “game”, then: Some will win; they will decide whether possession/consumption of the good or reselling it at demand pricing is of greater value to them, personally.

Some will accept the loss and move on, perhaps rationalizing with a “sour grapes” narrative; “first production run flaws, there’ll be more later”, etc. We’ve all used these. This is usually where it ends.

However, when the loss is too great to be rationalized, we seek to change the rules of the game:

Courtesy of Harper College. The rules: Above is the classic “5 ‘e’” model suggesting the much hated “reduce wants” avenue.

Politicians pandering to so-called “progressives” know that people hate to be told to reduce their wants, to conserve, to opt for a smaller piece of the pie. “Healthcare is a human right” they might say to garner the vote of the disenfranchised. Knowing this, a few scenarios arise.

Some will want price controls and vie to concede power to the government by making lofty promises, aka socialism/communism. Almost always the perceived burden is distributed to the working population through generalized taxation but the scarcity is never resolved, because money and the item are not one and the same thing and more of one does not result in more of the other (i.e.; you can’t take nine women and make a baby in a month). The item remains scarce regardless of how much money is siphoned from the working public through taxation, hence the money is diverted to the political bureaucracy and lines the pockets of the promise makers or “Nomenklatura” in the parlance of the Soviet system.

On a darker note, some will declare the good a “human right” deserved by all of us so as to justify violence and some transfer of the product to their hands by force, aka fascism. At this point the product will remain scarce but in the possession of tribal warlords instead of those who played by the rules and won the game. The humanitarian language will be shed like a snake’s skin along with the useful idiots who bought the narrative, either being executed when they get in the way seeking their needs met or falling back into obscurity and insignificant where once their hemming and hawing was heard from every mountaintop.

$910 + shipping and tax (yes, we in Texas are now forced to pay taxed on pre-owned items) and only 3 hours left . . . to what length would you go for the hottest toy of the year?

It comes down to how essential the item really is for some or all of these measures to be attempted, but those are the historical avenues. In the developed world, you may just see people demanding “Playstation 5 for all, bretheren!” and complaining about price gouging. You may even see the second option of good old violent distribution by force. But in others, more modest economies you will find bread lines, high crime, and the ruins of failed economic experiments instituted with high hopes and empty promises.

I’m a dad and fathers’ rights activist. I’m also a Nielsen Norman Group certified UX designer, and a six-time Addy award winning interactive media designer.