Nintendo was supposed to be a relative non-factor this holiday season. The Wii U is more or less completely dead, with long-term support for the 3DS now in question thanks to the spring arrival of the Switch. With no major console games and only a new Pokémon title to support them, it seemed like Nintendo was on track to have an off holiday year.
And yet, that’s all changed thanks to the Mini NES Classic Edition, a resurrected old console stuffed with nostalgic games, and the promise of a $99 Black Friday 3DS, now hotter than ever as everyone races to play Pokémon Sun and Moon.
But Nintendo being Nintendo can’t seem to get out of their own way, and now they own not one, but two of the most disappointing holiday gift stories of the entire season due to bungled promotions and ridiculously scarce availability.
The Mini NES Classic Edition has been almost completely impossible to find. The system is the perfect holiday gift, a steal at $60 and loaded with fun for the whole family, but picking one up in the wild makes finding Turboman look easy.
Major retailers sell out of the NES Classic Edition in minutes, and neither Nintendo nor these retailers have done anything to stop tons of these systems from being scooped up by bots and being resold online for a huge profit. And though Nintendo promises they’re doing everything they can to keep up with demand, some are accusing them of keeping stock artificially low in order to continue to make it the hot ticket item of the year.
Personally, I don’t think that’s their plan. I just genuinely think they misjudged how many of these things people would want, as we saw something identical with the Pokémon GO Plus accessory earlier this year. But at this point, it seems as if there’s not really any time for them to roll out some giant new shipment, as we’re now within a month of Christmas, and every new batch continues to be tiny and often stolen by bots. Nintendo is selling a fraction of the NES Classic Editions that they could have if they just properly gauged demand, but instead they’re creating legions of angry customers and losing out on tons of revenue.
The 3DS situation may not be quite as extreme as it was crammed into a single week’s worth of drama, but it’s arguably frustrated people even more. Probably the most anticipated Black Friday deal for video games was the $99 3DS that was promised on Amazon. Unfortunately, someone greenlit a random period of time earlier in the week where people were allowed to pre-order the deal during one random hour on November 23rd. No one was ever notified this was happening, so it became a mad rush, and many who were planning on just waiting until Friday like they were supposed to felt cheated.
Amazon and Nintendo tried to make good by replenishing the anemic stock on Black Friday, but when they did, the system sold out in five minutes. Many fans are still steaming about the situation as we head into the weekend.
I know that a certain amount of this is out of Nintendo’s hands. You can’t always get predictions right and you can’t make new systems appear out of thin air once they’re sold out. However, this is part of a pattern of Nintendo seriously misjudging when they have a hit on their hands, and when they’re overestimating. A few years ago they had to dramatically downscale their Wii U sales projections for the year from 9 million to 2.8 million when they realized they weren’t going to get anywhere even close to their predictions, and they’ve often overestimated Wii U and 3DS sales since. But lately, between Pokémon GO Plus, NES Classic Edition and now this cut-price 3DS, they’re really missing the mark in predicting what products are actually going to be successes for them, and planning accordingly. In an era when Nintendo desperately needs its loyalists more than ever, and needs old fans to return to the fold, they can’t keep putting people in frustrating situations like this where they finally want to buy Nintendo products, but they can’t.
It’s unclear what’s going to happen going forward for either the 3DS or Mini NES. I doubt we’ll see another deal that good on the 3DS for the rest of the holiday season, even though it would be smart for Nintendo to capitalize on the recent enthusiasm (and would a Pokémon bundle kill them?). As for the Mini NES, that’s all on the production side now, and if I had to guess, we will continue this cycle of small release and instant sell-outs through Christmas itself. In 2016 there really should be a better way to distribute a hot ticket item like this, but neither the retailers nor Nintendo seem to be able to figure it out, that much is clear.
If you’re out there hunting these elusive Nintendo products, I wish you the best of luck, but at this point, you might want to anticipate the worst, and plan accordingly.
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