Open your wallets nice and wide Nintendo fans! If you want in on the action with Nintendo’s new and greedily anticipated NES Classic Edition, you’re going to have to shell out a few hundred (or a few thousand) bucks. Or wait. Your choice, really. And unfortunately, those really are your only choices right now.
Nintendo’s highly sought after nostalgia device, the NES Classic Edition, went on sale this week. It then subsequently disappeared, quite literally, within seconds or minutes, depending on which website or physical store you were hoping to buy it from. There are two reasons for this.
First, the device was a dream come true for a lot of Nintendo fans. “I Need This Classic Nintendo System More Than I Need Air To Breathe,” wrote one writer over at Barstool Sports, echoing the overwhelming excitement from many fans in the gaming industry, a fair number of whom do not even own Nintendo’s current next-gen system, the Wii U. The company still invariably thrives off of the nostalgia factor and its homegrown IPs, and nothing says “take me back to the good ‘ol days” like a classic Nintendo Entertainment System already preloaded with some NES classics. For Millennials with kids of their own, the device easily represents the perfect gift to share a piece of their 1980s and 1990s childhood with the next generation.
Sure, the device comes with only 30 preloaded games (most of which were mildly, if not wildly popular at some point) without the option to purchase or add more, but it has the classic gray boxy look and feel, minus the head-spinningly long bouts of blowing into cartridges. (personally, I found the water method very effective, although that’s probably a bit heretical. But I digress.)
The second, and perhaps the more infuriating reason why you aren’t sitting Indian Style in front of your living room TV right now, mashing the circular red buttons on the classic NES controller as an 8-bit Mario bounces on pixelated goomba heads, boils down to one thing: a painfully misguided lack of supply.
On its official Twitter page, Nintendo of America threw dissatisfied fans a bone, promising more units will be made available throughout the holiday season.
This is, however, small comfort for the many fans who bookmarked the Amazon page, waited until the very second the units went on sale, and happily added one to their cart at the strike of midnight — only to find that their cart was empty by the time they hit “pay” less than a minute later. For many of you disappointed Amazon users out there, if you didn’t have 1-Click pay set up, you were pretty much up SOL. This has actually sent the device’s Amazon rating a bit unfairly to the floor as angry gamers have furiously made their displeasure known about missing out on day one — and somewhat harshly at that.
Supply-Side Economics? Not So Much
It would be easy to excuse Nintendo for this supply crunch. After all, the company is currently working toward producing their next system, The Nintendo Switch, and production funds are likely given a priority to the newer system. However, the company had to have known that the demand for the nostalgia system was going to be high. Either that or they simply weren’t paying attention.
Despite the fact that the new device was only subtly introduced and minimally advertised, anticipation was through the roof. Yes, Nintendo only announced the device back in July, but that was enough time to send gaming industry in a tizzy for days.
The original tweet garnered over 35,000 retweets and over 72,000 likes, clearly only a small fraction of those that were actually expressing interest in other places, such as on Facebook, Reddit and other forms of social media or simple word-of-mouth.
The device was trending on Twitter for a time after it was announced, as well as garnering enough media attention to ensure every gamer knew it was coming. The signs were there. For many fans, the almost instantaneous supply drought seems as if Nintendo simply chose to ignore them, instead taking the financially safe route by avoiding a glut of unwanted devices that simply go unsold. Given that it had this problem with the wildly unpopular Wii U, the company has been, somewhat understandably, taking the safe route ever since.
This was proven in 2014 when Nintendo failed to produce enough GameCube controller adapters for players eager to have them as a better alternative for playing the newer Super Smash Brothers on the Wii U. Then, as with now, Nintendo under-produced the supply, leading to an angry customer base and fleecing on eBay from the haves to the have-nots. Given that players had other controller options, the expected eBay price gouging was far lower than what we see with the NES Classic Edition, with some overzealous buyers asking upward of $5,000 a piece for the classic system remake (with perhaps the scarier part being that some people are actually buying them at that price).
Nintendo did release more GameCube adapters months later in 2015, but again with a limited supply which, again, sold out in minutes and, again, angered many people who were still waiting to get their hands on one.
Something More to Worry About
The current NES Classic Edition supply drought has many gamers worried about their prospects for the upcoming Nintendo Switch. The company announced it will have 2 million units ready to go upfront with the potential to produce more quickly if needed, a number that, given the heightened expectation for the device, could lead to a near immediate drought for yet another Nintendo product. For Nintendo fans, the regularity of these product droughts is seemingly becoming a rather disturbingly common occurrence, and in a manner of speaking, abusive of the trust fans place in Nintendo to actually supply enough devices for those that want them.
The original Wii console released with a supply of 6 million units. That, too, came with a limited supply that did not meet the high demand. It sold out quickly, leading to a drought that lasted for several months until Nintendo produced another round for gamers hungry at the time for the new system.