Did Nintendo learn its lesson with the SNES Classic?


Disclaimer : The following article was written freely based on the author's opinion, and it may not necessarily represent Inven Global's editorial stance.

Last month, Nintendo announced the Super NES Classic, a follow-up to its massively successful NES Classic plug-and-play machine. Pre-loaded with 21 of the best games ever made, including the unreleased Star Fox 2, and only costing $80, it seemed poised to be the gift to purchase this holiday season, but players were ready for massive supply shortages. The NES Classic, which launched in 2016, was almost impossible to find in retail stores, though a selection of accessories would always be there to mock hopeful shoppers. Online, stores would run out of stock just a few minutes after listing the system. It paved the way for third-party re-sellers to have a field day, tripling prices after they swooped in and purchased 10 of them.

Nintendo promised that this would not be the case with the SNES Classic. Though it likely won’t be produced after 2017, the company said that it would be making “significantly more” of the console in order to keep up with its rabid fanbase. It’s too early to be certain that this decision will satisfy consumer demand, but this weekend, an early pre-order sale seemed to suggest good news.


Just before midnight on Friday, July 21, I turned off my bedroom light and lay down to sleep. I decided to check Twitter before I closed my eyes and instantly jumped up – retail giant Walmart had opened up pre-orders for the SNES Classic, seemingly out of the blue. Anyone could purchase the console. There would be no Black Friday brawls. There would be no price gouging on eBay. I wouldn’t even have to renew my faith in religion in the hopes of a divine being providing me with one before the holidays rolled around. I could purchase not just one, but two, for both myself and my brother who had long since fallen out of gaming.

I expected to see the listing go dead within a couple of minutes. Entering my shipping information was agonizing. What if this takes too long to type? What if I’m wasting my time? Luckily, that didn’t happen. I must have been especially quick on the keyboard, as it only took me about ten minutes to order both of them. After they were secure, I waited, refreshing the page as I checked for the inevitable “out of stock” notice. But for 40 minutes, the system could still be purchased.


Not everyone who pre-ordered one of the consoles actually had their order processed. Some reported that their order was canceled almost immediately after being placed, and a Walmart customer service representative said that many of these cancellations were related to “security” issues of some kind. I’ve seen others claim their orders didn’t process correctly because they had purchased more than one console. In the U.K., this has already caused some issues, with orders of multiple consoles being reduced to one. If you have the time and don’t mind paying a little more for shipping, you should be able to place multiple individual orders, instead, though some Walmart representatives claim the entire listing was posted in error.

These issues aside, the majority of the people I saw discussing the console on social media were jumping for joy because they did manage to pre-order the system. Retailer Target revealed that it will also have the console for pre-orders, presumably with similar available to that of Walmart. If GameStop, Best Buy, and other big-name stores have a similar stock available, it will not only allow nostalgic adults a chance to relive their childhood, but it will also cut down on scalpers who prey on website listings, jumping at the chance to charge you hundreds of dollars for something that can’t be found anywhere else – because they already purchased them all.


Of course, the easiest solution for Nintendo would simply be to continue production into 2018 and beyond. The system doesn’t have to be a stocking stuffer on Christmas. Dedicated fans and even casual players want the SNES Classic regardless of when they can purchase it, particularly when it’s the only legitimate way to play a previously unreleased game. Sega and third-party partners have been offering their own plug-and-play systems this way for years. Even Atari has done so. There’s simply no need to leave people empty-handed if the console will be discontinued altogether. That sense of want has to eventually be monetized, and with the Switch also nearly impossible to find, potential customers could eventually lose interest and move on.

It made sense for Nintendo to release a small number of NES Classic systems last year. Very few people could have predicted the frenzy that ensued when the console went on sale, and headlines about the console selling out are certainly better for Nintendo than headlines about how many extra systems line store shelves. The Switch was also something of a gamble, as it’s the first console that attempted to truly unify the handheld and home console into one machine. After the failure of its previous experiment, the Wii U, Nintendo was wise to be conservative with its initial sales estimates.


But the SNES Classic is different. Nintendo clearly knows that fan demand is high. The original SNES is arguably the greatest console Nintendo ever made. Its library of games have aged incredibly well, but who knows how much longer people are going to want to play games from the ‘90s? What we do know is that the demand for them is high right now, and it would be a shame for eager fans to miss out on playing these classic games.

Fans clearly still have interest in Nintendo’s plug-and-play consoles, even if they didn’t manage to track down an NES Classic next year, and Nintendo looks like it could be continuing the console line with an N64 Classic in 2018. But at a certain point, finding a game console isn’t worth the anxiety of constantly checking retailers’ listings. Once Nintendo decides to stop artificially limiting its supply to constantly fall well behind of demand, we’ll no longer have to worry. Until then, keep hitting the refresh button.


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