Examples of Damage Control in Gaming: Preserving Nintendo Classic Editions

The biggest question that surrounded Nintendo’s release of the NES Classic Edition and the upcoming release of the SNES Classic Edition: Why?

Specifically: Why was Nintendo only manufacturing these consoles on a limited basis? It was apparent the NES Classic would be a hit right after it was announced, when it intrigued those who hadn’t played any video games besides mobile and browser titles for a while. That excitement panned out when the system released last fall, when it was nearly impossible to venture into a store and find one on shelves, or order one online. Despite plenty who wanted the system never being able to obtain one (like me!), Nintendo pulled the plug on its manufacturing earlier this year. They reportedly did this to make room for the SNES Classic, which rings hollow when they’re perfectly capable of keeping both around.

It appeared Nintendo was intent on repeating history with the SNES Classic. Drew and I have done a good job chronicling the absolute hell it was to preorder one at specific retailers, especially in America. But we (including Angela) should count ourselves among the lucky, as too many others couldn’t preorder it before retailers sold out of the few they offered. Nintendo claimed they would manufacture more SNES Classics compared to its predecessor, but this situation implied otherwise.

Fortunately, signs suggest they’re taking steps to remedy the issues they had with both classic systems. Despite previously claiming that SNES Classics would only be manufactured until the end of 2017, Nintendo confirmed plans to keep the system in production into 2018. Furthermore, they’re bringing the NES Classic back next summer. Don’t let anyone tell you constant criticism doesn’t work, as the vocal requests from people who still want an NES Classic and feared they wouldn’t be able to obtain its successor by the end of the year are the biggest reason why they made this decision.

Of course, this is also due to Nintendo finally realizing they were passing up on a big moneymaking opportunity by making these limited. Classic systems are hot, especially when they have good emulation unlike the reproduced Atari and Sega Genesis systems — including the newest version of the latter, sadly.

The existence of these consoles was good for collectors and those who like recreations of classic consoles that play old games, but they were also gifts for scalpers. It didn’t take long for the NES Classic to hit bidding sites for prices far higher than the MSRP after it released last fall, as Nintendo had nowhere near enough of them to sell for everyone who wanted one in time for Christmas. But it’s still a hot commodity now, and scalpers are raking in the profits with prices steadily increasing. Worse, there are convincing counterfeit versions being sold, though the emulation isn’t as good.

While Nintendo implied this situation would improve with the SNES Classic this fall, the preorder situation suggested otherwise, and scalpers caught on by preliminarily selling the system for higher than the MSRP. However, Nintendo of America COO Reggie Fils-Aimé said people shouldn’t pay more than the MSRP for it, as he claimed there will be plenty to go around. But again, it’s tough to take the word of anyone from Nintendo after the preorder debacle, so this isn’t deterring scalpers.

If they decide to leave these platforms in production on an indefinite basis, this could be dire for the future of the Virtual Console on Nintendo Switch. Details have already been provided about its classic game system, where subscribers to the online service will receive one free classic game a month. Balloon Fight, Dr. Mario, and Super Mario Bros. 3 were given as examples, showing how they’ll at least start with NES titles, and some will have additional features like online play. From there, they should keep going with SNES titles and perhaps games from other classic platforms.

The big question is whether they’ll start releasing classic games separately for Switch. The current common presumption is that they won’t, given how the system’s been on the market for six months without a word about a VC from Nintendo. The Classic systems won’t be a replacement for this since they don’t have the option to download more games, meaning the big question is whether Nintendo feels the VC will be worth it going forward alongside the free game offers. Hopefully we’ll get a definitive answer soon.

Meanwhile, I really want to believe Nintendo will fulfill demand for these systems, because I’d like to walk into a store and see several SNES Classic Editions sitting on store shelves this fall. I’d also like to see the same for NES Classics next year. My skepticism says that won’t be the case, and anyone who has their SNES Classics preordered should absolutely keep them. But I’d love to be wrong, so it’s their move.

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