Saturday, January 14, 2017


The Classic NES Mini Conspiracy

So Nintendo has been accused of manufacturing a planned shortage of Classic NES Mini units in order to get people's attention, drive up interest, and increase demand.  It's possible, I guess.  But if that was their intention, then it backfired spectacularly.

For one, I've forgotten that the damned thing ever existed.  When I first heard about it, I thought "What a fun idea!  I would like to buy one of those."  I showed up at the store on release day, and of course, I couldn't get one.  "All well," I thought, and that was about the end of it.  I saw some people talking about it on Twitter for about a day, and I haven't much heard or thought about it since.  This was nothing like the amiibo thing, where the buzz and the thirst survived for months after launch -- it just plain doesn't matter anymore.

The problem is, the thing had a very narrow window of relevance.  And that sentence is in the past tense, because it's over now.  That thing was a perfect little impulse purchase for the Nintendo fan who hasn't tasted the thrill of unboxing a brand new console for several years.  It was the perfect little flashy electronic gizmo to put under the Christmas tree.  It was a novelty that had exactly one holiday season's worth of legs to run on.  It was something to tide Nintendo fans over until they knew more about the Switch.

If Nintendo wanted to do a short initial release to drum up interest, the time to cash that interest in by flooding the shelves with product was before Nintendo fans were starting to prepare their wallets for the Switch launch.  No one is going to care about hooking up a dinky NES to their HD TVs this summer and next Christmas when they've got a brand new magical tablet system in their homes.  Yes, I'm sure there are still some die-hard fans who still hope to buy one some day, whether at scalper prices or otherwise, but now that Nintendo's initial marketing salvo is spent, I can't imagine people remaining hyped about the idea of an 8-bit plug-n-play TV games system for weeks or months while waiting for it to show up on shelves.

It's weird because Nintendo seemed to be taking the idea seriously.  They had demo presentations and advertising displays and they even re-opened their old hint hotline (which, hilariously, ended long before the majority of potential customers had any hope of actually buying the thing).  Why on Earth they would bother to raise so much awareness about something they didn't actually have available is beyond me.

We must believe that either Nintendo faked a shortage and forgot to cash in on it, or they just handled the device incredibly badly.  I have to believe it was the latter.  Nintendo has been badly misunderstanding the demand for their products lately.  Look at the 3DS, rotting on store shelves at launch because they believed they could gouge $250 out of us for a handheld.  Look at the Wii U, abandoned by the industry at large with terrifying speed.  And look at amiibo, inflating to $60 apiece on eBay because no one could find the damned things.  It seems like it's always feast or famine for Nintendo, and they lose out either way.

The only ulterior motive I could imagine for this behavior is to increase interest for Virtual Console games on the 3DS and Wii U.  I can't be the only person who saw all of this hype surrounding a tiny box of NES games and thought about how I already had two perfectly good machines -- one hooked up to an HD TV and one small enough to go with me everywhere -- that could download and play a much wider variety of games than that thing ever could.

It's not impossible.


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