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May 1, 2017 | by  | in Games |
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Supply and demand: How Nintendo is screwing you

Did you want a Nintendo Classic Mini: Nintendo Entertainment System (aka the NES Mini)? You know, the miniature plug-and-play replica of Nintendo’s most famous console that came out last christmas? It has thirty classic NES games on it, the controller feels just like an original NES controller, and the emulation of NES hardware is as good as it gets. Sounds like a great little package, doesn’t it?

Sorry, but you’re too late.

Despite being on the market for less than six months, and even after selling 1.5 million units, Nintendo are discontinuing the NES Mini. The last shipments have gone out to retailers, and they’ve likely already been snapped up by some lucky bastards. Even when they were making them, they were rarer than hen’s teeth, with Kiwi retailers selling out their pre-order allocations months before launch. If you desperately want one, there’s probably a few on TradeMe, but they’re going for well over the standard price of $120; some arseholes on eBay are selling individual units for thousands of dollars!

But why is the NES Mini’s discontinuation a big deal? You might be thinking: a little plastic box with some retro games in it going away isn’t that important, is it? Pretty much every other case of this happening hasn’t caused this kind of fuss, so why write about it?

Guys, this is Nintendo we’re talking about. Nothing that this company does is typical, nor does it make much sense. This issue is somewhat reflective of Nintendo’s attitudes towards both its own products and the gaming market in general, and what I see is something that is just a little worrying.

Much of Nintendo’s current business practices can be summed up in just two words: artificial scarcity. While it has never been confirmed they are doing this, the prevailing view amongst gamers is that Nintendo deliberately manufactures less units than what would adequately meet demand. The lack of available units creates a buzz that essentially guarantees the product will sell well over time, even once they finally start making enough of them.

Pretty much every Nintendo product not named the Wii U has had supply issues since the launch of the Wii in 2006, notably with certain Amiibo figurines being notoriously difficult to find. In the case of the NES Mini, it got bloody ridiculous; some brick-and-mortar stores reported receiving as little as TWO units in each shipment, and Amazon of all places sold out their pre-orders in less than 15 minutes. Even the Nintendo Switch isn’t immune from this; while there are plenty for sale in New Zealand, elsewhere there aren’t enough to go around.

Artificial scarcity punishes consumers simply for playing their role in the open market, and it frankly beggars belief that companies like Nintendo can seemingly get away with it. While I can understand being cautious with new product launches, there’s a difference between that and acting dick-ish towards your customers, and Nintendo often skirts that line. Perhaps with the NES Mini, they never planned for it to be available for very long in the first place; it is essentially a toy, a nostalgic novelty that supplemented their core business, and it was likely just a stop-gap between the Christmas season and the launch of the Switch.

But that doesn’t excuse this kind of bullshit. Nintendo probably knew full well they hadn’t made enough NES Minis, and they pushed on knowing suckers would buy them no matter what. This is the kind of bollocks that drives people away from games, and it needs to stop — make the product so we can buy the product!

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