Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Opinion: My Love/Hate With Nintendo Continues

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I got a press release this morning, like early this morning, from Nintendo.  It wasn’t that long, but still too long for this piece, so I’ll lightly extract the important parts.  “Due to incredible demand for the upcoming…Super NES Classic Edition system, Nintendo plans to ship the retro-inspired product into 2018.”  Oh, it gets better.  The press release then goes on in the third paragraph to say, “Next summer, Nintendo will also bring back the…NES Classic Edition system with new shipments.”  I’ve already had some celebratory readers, all of which I believe were unable to snag either console to date, reach out and basically say, “we did it.”  I’d like to believe these decisions have to do with our combined outcry or even the handful of petitions available to sign online, and either way these efforts have now seen results.  With this news comes new questions, concerns, and potential futures, but for now lets just sip our coffee with a smile on our face.  While the NES Classic and SNES Classic may be the focal point of my intro, I’m taking all of Nintendo to task with both the great and terrible moves it has made in the past few years.

Why The Nintendo Hate?

This shortage of consoles is nothing new.  I think I’ve been waiting for Nintendo products to come in stock for at least 30 of my 35 years on this earth.  In 1987, I was 5, I got an NES for Christmas and wanted to go pick up two games I’d read about in the Nintendo Fun Club newsletter: Castlevania and Mega Man.  You see, my birthday is on January 6 so when I would get a new console or portable for Christmas I could usually purchase a game or two immediately following.  In January of 1988 it was impossible to get those games, but I can’t tell you whether it was the apparent chip shortage that would plague the holidays in late 1988 or some other factor.  This continued with Super Mario Bros. 3 being stealth launched in Summer 1990, frantic shenanigans to get my hands on an N64 (and Mario 64 because the two weren’t always available together) in September of 1996, then similar problems with the GameCube in 2001, and I camped in front of a Best Buy in November 2006 to get a Wii.  This doesn’t even account for the waiting for several first party games, terrible customer service on servicing consoles, woes with portables, and so on.  I’ve been waiting for Nintendo my entire life and I’ve allowed no other company to treat me this way while still getting my money.  To try to make sense of it is an exercise in futility.

Recently, with the Nintendo Switch, I’ve turned a corner.  I don’t know if it was turning 35 (probably not), but I decided it was time to stop catering to Nintendo.  It had dicked me around for most of my life and like a victim of Stockholm Syndrome suddenly coming out of its trance, I was free.  I knew I wanted a Switch and I knew I would probably enjoy it, but I wasn’t going to play the pre-order game, I wasn’t going to camp out, and I didn’t even care if I had the console in 2017.  This is not an overall change in my console-purchasing habits because I did buy a PS4 Pro and Xbox One-S on the day/week they released, but I was able to simply walk into a store and buy them.  Full disclosure, I was able to nab a Switch in the same fashion earlier this year – walked into a Wal-Mart, there it was, bought it.  On the other hand there was a console from holiday 2016 that I and many others initially cared about that doesn’t have a positive story: the NES Classic Edition.

There’s been plenty of articles about the woes of that console, but just for the sake of argument here’s what got everyone so upset.  The console was announced on September 12, 2016, and was impossible to find at retail.  The initial shipments on November 11 totaled just under 200,000, making it as difficult to find as the Playstation 3 at launch.  As with the Playstation 3, units were selling at four, five, and even six times the price on eBay and Criagslist. Unlike the PS3, units never really got back in stock.  Scalpers took over and had the market completely covered and even big companies like Think Geek (owned by GameStop) started making you buy outrageous bundles at 2-2.5 times the price to get the coveted console.  Then, in April 2017, Nintendo discontinued it.  This shocked most people, myself included, and prices online went up even further.  Whether intentional or not, this act has always remained a mystery to me.  It didn’t make customers happy and many like myself would have gladly picked one up for $60 had we seen it sitting on a shelf during the holidays or at least online for a “buy now, ship by Christmas” deal.  At only 2.3 million units sold it didn’t significantly increase Nintendo’s overall capital gain and the stocks barely budged over the course of this release schedule.  The only people who really seemed to do well were the scalpers, but even they have an excess of stock still unsold and readily available on eBay at this moment.  It seemed that overall everyone lost with the NES Classic Edition.  This year Nintendo did the same with the SNES Classic Edition, but proved it had learned almost nothing by making it only available until the end of the year and said that while they would produce “significantly more” units that you should pre-order if you want one.  The pre-order was a mess and as before scalpers got tons while regular consumers were left frustrated or feeling like they’d won the lottery for the “honor” to purchase one of these units.  As expected, Nintendo blamed reatilers, which isn’t completely without merit but also proves that Nintendo isn’t really looking out for its customers.  The thing isn’t even out yet and many like myself had already written it off as outside of the realm of possibility.  Couple this with continued issues in finding the Switch in stock, although it doesn’t have a limited run and will eventually catch up with demand, and you see why the mention of Nintendo starts to do nothing but make your blood boil.

Why The Nintendo Love?

Despite these negative slants against the company, Nintendo has done a lot of good in recent years as well.  The Switch in and of itself is an incredible console that bridges the gap between gaming at home and on-the-go, making it as versatile as I have to be as a full time working parent.  It also has plenty of third party support, especially in the indie downloadable scene, which is a breath of fresh air for a Nintendo console that we haven’t really seen since the N64 era.  On that note the very presence of the NES/SNES Classic Edition consoles is somewhat of an anomaly.  I never would have guessed that Nintendo would actually create a product like this, give it as much care as it deserves, and sell a bundle of very popular titles for a considerably lower price than the Virtual Console titles piecemeal.  We’ve also seen Nintendo combat the very scalpers we all criticize by re-releasing sought after Wii titles on the Wii U for low prices as well.  Metroid Prime TrilogyXenoblade ChroniclesMario Galaxy 2 all came to the Wii U at $20 ($10 in the first week) and fought back against eBayers asking $60-$100 for these games and even GameStop, who was selling Xenoblade used for a higher price it originally sold new.  Tangible copies on Wii U and 3DS also had price drops on select games to $19.99 retail.  Almost all Wii U games came out digitally as well as tangibly, meaning that if you really wanted The Devil’s Third you didn’t have to pay $100 on eBay for it, just swallow your pride and pay the standard $59.99 for the digital copy.  This has continued on the Switch.  Even Earthbound Beginnings, originally known as Mother Zero by fans, was released in English for the first time ever on the Wii U.  That game was ready to ship on the NES in 1990 and was canceled at the last minute, so seeing Nintendo bring it out of the vaults decades later was amazing.  The same can be said for the SNES Classic Edition finally releasing the full version of Star Fox 2, which the public have never had access to until now (that rom online is a stolen demo from TGS 1995).  Most of these items are relatively inexpensive or on consoles that didn’t sell well, like the Wii U, which even further promotes that Nintendo stands behind its products and its customers.

Sure, the good parts of Nintendo aren’t as flashy or dramatic as the bad, but they are significant.  It’s why my feelings toward the company feel like a tug-of-war.

Future Predictions

There’s still hope for some that we will see the day an NES or SNES Classic Edition is on store shelves.  I’m also glad Nintendo has explicitly asked you not buy from scalpers or at an increased price than the retail price.  This is all good, but I’m not sure if it undoes the damage in the public’s eye.  When the NES Classic Edition comes back on store shelves in 2018, and assuming it’s produced enough to be on shelves, will the public buy it then?  Retro enthusiasts, collectors, and gamers probably will, but we aren’t were the bread and butter for this product line, it’s the average consumer.  Like the Wii, Nintendo needs this to sell as an impulse buy from nostalgic parents and people who don’t actively buy video games.  I’m not sure if the negativity surrounding this product will be forgotten by 2018 and if the appeal will still be around after people have spent the better part of two years plagued by online price points.  The same is true of SNES Classic Edition, assuming it’s hard to find, which Nintendo seems confident won’t be the case.  I’m betting it still will be, but we shall see.  If nothing else, the chance that scalpers will not be able to sell these units at these crazy prices anymore makes me hopeful.

Then again, I for one, am out.  As someone who already has these consoles I was on the fence to begin with, but my frustration grew to the point I built my own Raspberry Pi.  It’s not an easy task if you want things customized, pretty, and presentable like Nintendo’s console, but it is doable.  I’m betting most just want a plug-and-play solution and that’s why the Pi isn’t as widespread of a solution as you would think.  I also know that tons of clone consoles are coming out of China, and while even the best knock-offs come close, they are not ideal presentations of these games and are not equals to the NES Classic despite having the same retail price tag of $60.  I guess time will tell, but for now, I’m going to finish my coffee with a smile and a hope.  Perhaps Nintendo’s learning from these mistakes.

Written by Fred Rojas

September 12, 2017 at 12:00 pm

One Response

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  1. You lovehate Nintendo, I hatelove Sony.


    September 12, 2017 at 10:59 pm

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