Examples of Damage Control in Gaming: A Not-So-Classic NES Classic

Anyone who said the NES Classic Edition would be the new Wii back when it was announced last summer couldn’t have been more right. The system appealed to many among the gaming audience and those outside it who remember the system fondly, notably because it was a recreation of a classic system with actual effort put into it. It contained 30 classic NES games with better emulation quality than those offered on the Wii U and 3DS Virtual Consoles. It was also far better than the mediocre Genesis and Atari systems that have been released and updated for years, so the system was a recipe for success with a big audience.

It’s a pity, then, that Nintendo still hasn’t been able to meet demand for it three months after its release. The popular argument was that Nintendo was creating artificial shortages to increase demand, and while that can be working strategy, it tends to wear out its welcome after the holiday season. It’s now mid-February, and the best way to get a system is to either stay tuned to a Twitter account like Cheap Ass Gamer’s to see if it shows up in stock somewhere, or use a special app that informs you of when a retailer has some to sell. That is, unless you want to pay an exorbitantly high price from a second-hand seller.

Currently, it sounds less like Nintendo creating shortages and more like them seriously underestimating demand. You might have thought this wouldn’t happen given how much excitement there was for the system when it was announced, but if you did, you don’t know Nintendo.

With the shortages, plenty still haven’t had an opportunity to purchase one — me included. Just imagine their reaction if they saw the news that the system was being discontinued by Nintendo. According to several posts in a thread on gaming message board NeoGAF, the distributors for some Nordic and Norwegian retailers received notice that the system would be discontinued sometime in mid-spring. Other posters who work for retailers soon corroborated news that it was ceasing production. The info predictably prompted reactions regarding why in the world Nintendo would make such a decision. When a company has made a successful product, the last thing they should do is give up on it. But it’s possible there was a good reason why this was happening.

It’s tough to believe Nintendo hates money this much, but one theory was that they were discontinuing the system to release an updated version, due to the current one being hacked. It’s not surprising that hackers were able to program the system to run any NES game, given the technology included. Even better, hackers made it so the entire North American NES library of 700 games could be stored on it simultaneously. Most recently, they programmed it so it could play games from a variety of platforms, including SNES, Genesis, and Game Boy. This unsurprisingly revealed how the system is more powerful than an NES, and though the NES Classic’s controller isn’t suited to most SNES and Genesis games, various Wii controllers work with it. While nice, Nintendo didn’t intend for it to be used this way, and perhaps wanted to release a more hacker-proof version.

However, it seems those stories about it being discontinued were simply misinformed. Tech Radar got in contact with Nintendo’s UK division, who confirmed that production will indeed continue, and they’ll ship units to retailers on a regular basis. Note that they didn’t comment on how they still haven’t been able to meet demand even after the holiday season. People may not have to resort to purchasing an expensive version from an online marketplace after all, though I’m not confident enough in Nintendo to address the stock issues at any point in the near future.

In fact, they’ve been having hardware stock problems all around for a while. It continues to be difficult to obtain any 3DS model in America, despite the holiday season ending nearly two months ago. And good luck to anyone who plans on purchasing a Switch at launch or within the launch window for $300, as current signs suggest you’ll be waiting for a while.

Part of me wishes Nintendo was discontinuing the current NES Classic Edition to pave the way for the release of an upgraded one. In addition to adding more games and making it hacker-proof for a time (they always break in eventually), they should also include controllers with longer cables.

It will be a miracle when (or if?) Nintendo gets the NES Classic stock situation resolved, but expect it to take a while considering they’ll have three lines of hardware to continually replenish soon. They’ll have to meet demand for their hardware again one day soon, assuming they intend on remaining in business as a manufacturer.

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