How the Nintendo Stole Christmas
He puzzled and puzzled until his puzzler was sore. Nintendo thought of something it hadn’t before. Maybe shipping, it thought… Maybe shipping more than 3 freaking consoles to a store means that people could buy and enjoy our product!
On November 11, 2016, Nintendo released its latest console. It was a surefire hit, the Nintendo NES Classic Edition. Essentially a modified emulation device, it is a miniature NES that doesn’t play cartridges. Instead it plays 30 games internally and, unlike the original NES, is set up to work with modern TV’s without delays, fidelity loss, or any other issues that comes with hooking up your original top-loaded to a brand new HDTV. Approximately 3 minutes after all the stores – Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Toys R Us, GameStop, and Amazon - that planned to carry this hot holiday item opened, it was sold out. Yes, 3 minutes. How could this be? Surely, Nintendo shipped dozens and dozens of these fantastic items to each big box retailer and, hell, the pre-orders were already there to be fulfilled! Well…
There were no pre-orders. Period. None. No shop allowed any pre-orders before the day of release. The local Target here got 3 NES Classic Editions. THREE. The local Wal-Mart got 6. The local Toys R Us got “less than 10” according to an associate. Best Buy had a line around the building before the opened. GameStop either sold all of theirs at midnight, or sold them internally to associates, because at 8 AM – 2 hours before opening – they had a sign on saying they were sold out. Amazon started their sale at 2 PM Pacific and by 2:03, they were entirely out. Their website crashed. GameStop apparently had some available online as I managed to snag one. How many? What time were they released? Right around that same 2 PM PT a “add to cart” button randomly appeared for a couple of the NES Classic Edition bundle options. It was gone short after.
Nintendo, it seems, learned exactly 0 lessons from the 800 other times they understocked and oversold their items, causing countless of angry posts. On Twitter, they were playing defense. “Just wait! More are coming before the holidays! Probably! We swear!” For a few minutes of sad amusement, go to the Nintendo of America Facebook page and enjoy the thousands of angry customers. “I will never buy a Nintendo product again!” “Christmas is ruined!” “Buy a Classic Edition for a mere $450.” Wait, what?
Yup, scalpers! Those beloved pus-filled boils on the belly of every hobby. These scum sucking leeches got up at 2 AM, stood in line (or maybe worked out a deal to get them before they went on sale to the public), bought as many as they could, and are now trying to charge upwards of $3,000 for a $59.99 Nintendo item that, hell, you can just buy in a few weeks for retail price. Is anyone paying this? Dear god, I hope not. And I am not joking. I have seen them locally for up to $850, and on eBay for nearly $3,000. THREE-THOUSAND DOLLARS. For that much money you could buy an NES in the original box and the 30 games you wanted, plus a few extras, for Christmas. For the love of Arceus, DO NOT PAY A SCALPER FOR A BRAND NEW ITEM THEY WILL MAKE MORE OF. Just don’t. If you want to pay, say, $80 for the $60 NES Classic from some guy who waited in line, sure. That seems reasonable. But over $100 is moronic. Just wait a few weeks. Please.
Nintendo is a company that desperately needs some positive vibes from their fans.
Nintendo is a company that needs fans to come pouring back, opened arm, ready for the Nintendo Switch and a future of fun, exciting gaming.
Nintendo didn’t need to royally fuck up their marketing and sales yet again.
Let’s go back for a minute to learn exactly why this one glitch is systemic of a long problem that Nintendo has. Back when the Wii we released in the ancient days of November, 2006, it was the hot holiday item. The Wii was a different kind of game system. It focused on game play over graphics, with innovation and fun at the forefront. It was the perfect salve for the stinging pain of beautiful graphics and generic gameplay found in the popular FPS games. It was so good, it got people to come back to gaming or start for the first time in their lives. And Nintendo shipped about 3 per store. Sound familiar? The Wii was out of stock everywhere and Nintendo was blown away by the response. Nintendo scrambled to get that much-needed Christmas seasons cash after the weak GameCube. The Wii went on to be a massive success, fueled by great games and mounds of shovelware.
Then came the Wii U. It was… confusing to most folks. The name was meh. Was it a new Wii? Was it a new thing, separate? Was it an add on? No one knew and thus really started the Nintendo spiral of mistakes that leads right into the NES Classic. Poor marketing, a lack of third party support, and a confusing nomenclature dug the Wii U an early grave. It was joined by Amiibos.
Ah, Amiibos! I have a ton of them. I use them in my games when I can, and I stick them on my shelf when they aren’t needed. The first series of Amiibos came out in June of 2014 and flew off the shelf. Then came scalpers. Then came websites crashing when preorders and new Amiibos came for sale. The first 5 or so waves were impossible to get. Some people either never got the ones they wanted, paid quadruple the reasonable $13 sales price to get a rare one (Am I the only person alive with a Little Mac Amiibo? I have never seen another.), or resorted to ordering from Japanese and German Amazon websites. After 5 or 6 waves, Nintendo corrected the shortage and now enjoys a glut of Amiibos that mostly sit on shelves for a while before consumers scoop them up. Only the occasional rare one, like the giant Yarn Yoshi, sparks panic. So Nintendo surely learned from their mistake, right?
No. They did not.
Though Nintendo isn’t directly responsible for Pokemon Go, it is the name most often associated with Pokemon. Nintendo made a ton of money with their second app. What, their second? The first Nintendo property to be an app were the Miis and, yes, that app was garbage. So, Nintendo did have a hand in Pokemon Go. It was absolutely a huge hit and the number of players those first few weeks cannot be downplayed. But a failure to add meaningful updates to deliver promised in game actions coupled with a complete mess of server problems the first month lead to a quick, strong decline in users for app that once boasted more users that Twitter. Now a few die hard gamers hold on, playing on dog walks, at lunch breaks, or out of boredom. And with the new update that makes it impossible to hit Pokestops or catch Pokemon as a passenger, the last few of us fizzled out.
The iron was right for Nintendo to strike. Fans of Nintendo-style games wanted a new system – the Switch – announced recently as an official, innovative idea. The 3DS sales have been waning, waiting for the next big thing in handhelds form the master of short, fun, attention grabbing games The Switch wasn’t going to make this Christmas but a rise in retro game enthusiasm, a small success in Pokemon Go, and a series of me-to boring games from their main competitors meant Nintendo needed a hit and, hell, they were certainly able to steal a market away this Christmas.
So, Nintendo stood up to the plate, swung, and pulled a 2016 Cleveland World Series whiff. The NES Classic came out in a tiny trickle, just 3 to 10 units per store, and was violently snatched away from gamers young and old by determined scalpers, shoved onto eBay and Craigslist, and leaving Nintendo once again looking like a bunch of fools.
They learned nothing from their Wii launch or their Amiibo disaster. Some folks have a weird conspiracy that Nintendo does this on purpose to drive their fans into a fervor so they can… sell the same amount of games they would’ve sold had they just shipped enough. I guess. Judging by the lines of 30 or more people outside Best Buys nationwide, they didn’t need to get interest in a negative manner. They could’ve just shipped 50 or so to each big store and raked in some profits, getting tons of people ready for the Switch. “You bought our NES Classic? Check out the upcoming Switch! Here’s a video! Here’s some info! Come back to Nintendo!” Or, don’t, because no one will get them. Scalpers will sell them for exorbitant prices, and go to hell, fans.
Nintendo makes no money off of scalpers other than the same amount they would’ve if they would’ve just sold you the $59.99 system. Actually, they make less off of the scalpers because folks like me are disgusted by their continual failures and refuse to pay anymore. A few folks are going to wait, buy their copy of the NES Classic, and have a great Christmas or birthday or whatever. And a few, maybe a tiny bit, are going to leave Nintendo for good. If a few left with the Wii, a few with the Wii U, and a few more with Pokemon Go or NES Classic, then sooner or later Nintendo won’t have any fans.
I don’t want this. I want Mario console games for the rest of my life. I want my kids and my kids’ kids to play the Legend of Zelda. I want Nintendo to succeed. I am a huge Nintendo fanboy and I fully admit this. But, nope, Nintendo royally screwed up again. Maybe this time they’ll learn from their mistake. Maybe. Let’s hope Christmas isn’t ruined for many folks.
And, in the name of Ganondorf, don’t pay some jerk scalper hundreds of dollars for a $59.99 new item.