Well, the internet has been set ablaze from the headlines that created tons of reactions from all sorts of people. Nintendo recently announced that it had discontinued production of the NES Classic Edition, at least in North America. While there is no word yet if this is the case globally, many consumers have shown their anger towards this announcement. This is where I hope to shed some light on the issue and provide some possibilities to this decision, not because I’m not upset myself, but because I believe there is more at work than most think. I’ll also include some alternate ways to enjoy NES games.
Now, for a bit of context, the NES Classic Edition released in November of 2016. Sales estimates given at the end of December put the NES Classic Edition as selling roughly 1.5 million units at $59.99 USD a piece. Even at its launch, the console was being resold online for over 300% retail. Now that Nintendo has publicly declared their discontinuation of production, those online sellers are now asking a 700-800% mark up from the retail suggested. Since the systems release, I have seen two of these elusive units at retailers, both of which were sold by the end of the day.
The problem with this initially is that people who want to pick up the console, are more than likely having to turn to scalpers, just because the production couldn’t keep up with the demand. Oddly enough, during my time working at a local game store, the people who expressed the most interest in the system were older people who hadn’t been excited about video games in years. Most of these folks wanted to buy the unit to have some good times sharing their love for these 30 games included with their children. This system was really made for those people, a small taste of the games that built the foundation that Nintendo would create a global phenomenon.
Now that we have some context, let me break down why I think Nintendo decided to put a stop to the production of one of the fastest selling consoles of this generation.
Nintendo still has trouble gauging the US market
As far back as the Wii, Nintendo has had trouble keeping up with the insane demand of the American market space. I remember stories of Wii systems being so scarce that many actually traveled to other states to buy one. Remember this is a console, that at launch was mostly being used to play bowling with grandma. Even the commercial failure that was the Wii U went through a similar situation and don’t even get me started on the first few runs of the Amiibo figure line. Granted this demand issue is sometimes alleviated with the act of pre-ordering games before they launch. Our tip to customers when I worked at that store was to pre-order anything Nintendo or Atlus related, even if you were only remotely interested in playing them.
This has been a major issue for the last five years, with plenty of trending articles talking about just how poorly Nintendo predicts their success. Many believe this issue to be what holds Nintendo back from truly competing with the likes of Sony and Microsoft. Unfortunately, there’s not much of a solution in sight. Many manufacturers that make Nintendo products are factories that have been honoring old exclusivity deals with the company for many, many years. Until we see Nintendo using more global factories to actually produce these units, we won’t see the production keep up with demand.
Nintendo meant for this to be limited all along
The vibe I always got from the NES Classic Edition’s press releases and marketing was that this was a console intended to maintain profits during the holiday season. Last holiday season saw some awesome releases with major titles like Final Fantasy XV and Battlefield 1 being released, as well as Sony entering the VR market. On the flip side, Nintendo buckled down on promoting the 3DS and putting a ton of marketing into games like Pokemon Sun & Moon, while the Wii U continued its slow death. The NES Classic Edition kept Nintendo in shoppers’ minds during that influx of spending, just in time for Black Friday.
Truly, this move was a clever one by Nintendo, but apparently they didn’t realize just how popular the system would be, as it sold out almost everywhere overnight.
Nintendo wants to put the focus on the Switch
This is the most likely theory to why the NES Classic Edition has suddenly been discontinued. Nintendo is putting most of their time, energy, and money into making sure the Switch does well. This is evident by their inclusion of marketing during the Super Bowl and their continued advertising efforts. Those who still haven’t been able to pick up a Switch, will likely have less issues as the year goes on, as it has only been out for about a month. Nintendo getting this early start is great though, as they can (hopefully) use the marketing data to better prepare for the holidays. The Switch has been reported to have sold 2.4 million units worldwide so far.
Having people still looking for the NES Classic Edition could hurt the image that Nintendo wants people to have. Nintendo likely wants everyone to be talking about the Switch later this year, hoping to recreate the smash success of the Nintendo Wii. Therefore, if they kill production now, they can try to build up all the offerings of the new console. It’s also important to note that we still have no idea how Nintendo will be treating the Virtual Console on the Switch. This means whatever it is they could be adding, could have competed against their own product in some way.
While I am pretty bummed that I’ll probably never own one of these cool NES systems, I’m not as angry as some others around the net. For me, the NES Classic Edition was a way to show Nintendo that there is still a ton of love for Nintendo’s history and retro games. I planned on buying the system initially to vote with my wallet on this idea, with the hope that Nintendo would make their past libraries more accessible with future developments. If anything this release shows that Nintendo at least has some love for their retro players.
Really, my best advice for those looking to enjoy these games for future generations is to pick up the titles on the E-Shop for either the Wii U or 3DS. The New 3DS even supports some SNES games with titles like Earthbound, being way more affordable than hunting down the cartridge in a lot of instances. I own tons of games digitally because of this reason and I hope to see more and more of these games make their way to an official digital format.
For a deeper look into Nintendo’s history though, I suggest looking into emulation. Until Nintendo offers a complete way to enjoy these older games, emulation is one of the best ways to play them. There are hundreds of games I wouldn’t know about it it hadn’t been for emulation, games that offered some context to a point in history or showed me the work of a much smaller company that maybe didn’t get the marketing it deserved. Using emulation also has some benefits with the hardware, like using an Everdrive with Retro USB’s AVS system for superior quality across the board.
I still hope to see Nintendo develop a modern way to offer their old games, as I believe the market is definitely there. There is little reason we should be drip fed titles without some really great extra features added in. Nintendo did mention allowing players to play online with games like the original Mario Kart from SNES during their Switch reveals and interviews, so hopefully we’ll see something like that come into play soon. I’m still with Jim Sterling and Shane Luis’ suggestions on a subscription based service that charges monthly and offers unlimited downloads to hundreds of games. We can only hope Nintendo picks up on that.
For those of you madly searching for an NES Classic Edtion, maybe check out some other methods of reliving memories before shelling out hundreds of dollars to a scalper.