Nintendo launched its NES Classic Edition retro console today in stores across North America, but the only way you'd know that was by the "out of stock" notices and unhappy customers waiting in line for nothing. As usual with Nintendo, the company only manufactured, like, twelve consoles for this first release. OK that's an exaggeration, but considering that most retailers only received around three to five units to sell per location, it's understandable why people are a little ticked at Nintendo today (and that's before mentioning how many of those consoles went to eBay scalpers who are charging hundreds of dollars for a $59.99 product). Mike Williams at USgamer explains.
We've been here before with Nintendo. With the launches of the Wii, the Wii U, and Amiibo, the company is known for playing it safe with hardware shipments. Nintendo would rather not have loads of stock sitting on the shelves, as opposed to the more traditional US stocking methods of companies like Microsoft and Sony: ship as many as you have, and if some are on store shelves, that's good because it encourages impulse buying.
Nintendo isn't flying high financially and misjudging a hardware launch can be an expensive proposition. It absolutely makes sense to slowly roll out stock of the NES Classic Edition. Especially during the holiday season, where lower stock can drive consumer interest.
The problem is that lower stock can also drive consumer resentment and disengagement. There are a number of people who waited in line, only to find out they were consumer #6 for a store that only had five units. There are those looking to purchase the system as gifts, not profit-making auctions. Nintendo is advertising the system, but for an average consumer, heading to retail will only end in a clerk letting them know the system is out-of-stock. And there's a likelihood that's where their interest will stop.
I was ecstatic about the NES Classic when it was first announced months ago, but being unable to preorder left me with time to think it over and since I already own about 80% of the thirty games included as either Virtual Console releases for Wii/Wii U/3DS or as original game paks for my actual still-working Nintendo Entertainment System, I wasn't interested in waiting in line for something that would be out of stock immediately or constantly refreshing a website like Amazon for the three-second window that the product would be available before either selling out or the website crashing due to spiked demand. I'm reminded of poor Homer Simpson waiting in line to buy tickets to the big football game.
I don't expect Nintendo to change this behavior. I've often criticized companies for trying to take in All Money instead of just Some Money by overpricing items beyond reason (have you seen the complete edition Watch Dogs 2 from Ubisoft? It costs $100 for the game plus a season pass plus exclusive extra DLC), and by keeping demand outweighing supply, Nintendo is only making Some Money here on the actual product (stock price seems to be doing alright thanks to the PR value of the whole NES Classic campaign), so I have to give credit for that even though it feels like I wished on a monkey's paw to make it happen. Meanwhile, there aren't enough consoles to go around, the company promises an eventual restock, scalpers gonna scalp, and sold-out stores are already tired of having to tell people they don't have any consoles left. Merry Christmas! We'll see you back here in March for the Nintendo Switch launch. I hope the company ships more than a dozen units on launch day.