This Week in Bad Pop Culture Ideas: The NES Classic Edition debacle

Still from NES Classic Edition trailer. Image via Nintendo.
Still from NES Classic Edition trailer. Image via Nintendo. /

At this point, Nintendo’s short-lived NES Classic Edition has ended up as a very good idea hampered by some very Nintendo-esque execution.

The other day, yours truly went to GameStop to preorder a new amiibo, because they’re still making new ones and I’m still weak like that. They had three available for the figurine I wanted, and others snapped them up long before my arrival.

This experience is basically the Nintendo experience in a nutshell, and has been for quite some time. It may not seem related to the NES Classic Edition … unless, by now, you are just nodding along and quietly resigning yourself to pay an inflated price just to have one sitting proudly near your TV.

In case you missed the bombshell, let’s wind it back to Thursday. Out of seemingly nowhere, Nintendo announced that it would stop making NES Classic Editions. Whatever manages to reach stores will be it. And, lest you dreamed of importing the Famicom from Japan, even though it isn’t gray and the controller looks a little different, there won’t be more of those either, per Nintendo Wire. (Of course, the Famicom situation seems a touch more complicated, because of course it is.)

At the time, yours truly speculated that it perhaps had to do with a Switch addition of the Virtual Console. After all, Nintendo sold 1.5 million NES Classics last quarter, per IGN. It has already sold over 900,000 Switches in the States alone, according to CNN. It’s $60 vs. $300, and there’s more room for profit in the latter, especially since there are no official Switch bundles from Nintendo just yet. In other words, Virtual Console sales are like a bonus on top of the Switch money. If the Switch continues to sell as it has (mostly thanks to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild actually being worth the wait unlike, say, Skyward Sword, about which I am still bitter), it makes sense on that level.

Of course, the Nintendo Switch is about as difficult to find as the NES Classic, so make of that what you will. At least you can find extra Joy-Con pretty reliably, as long as you’re willing to drop $80 for the pair. Does that count for something?

However, no announcement on the Virtual Console has arrived as of yet. The Nintendo Direct last week finally confirmed the release of the long-awaited Cloud, Corrin and Bayonetta amiibo (with variants of each to drive collectors mad, and at least some of those are exclusive to certain stores for added difficulty. Good luck!) at least. We’ll just have to content ourselves with that for now … if you can actually find a preorder for any of them anymore.

As a result, that idea only works on the level of “driving Switch sales,” as long as you tilt your head, metaphorically speaking. It does not, on the other hand, work on the level of making fans happy. Granted, the Nintendo fanbase just doesn’t quit, something we noted when we put Nintendo on our Fandom 250, and they haven’t quit with the release of the Switch. Seriously, look at those numbers again, and then scroll back down.

Interestingly, a Nintendo representative told IGN in the above-linked article that “high demand” prompted more NES Classics, as if Nintendo didn’t think that a very affordable and adorable version of the console that effectively brought video games back wouldn’t sell at all. Not to knock the company, which has been in business since 1889, but that just seems a little … strange.

I wrote recently on how console scarcity works, and the idea here is basically the same. Now that Nintendo fans know that the time of the NES Classic is coming to an end, the pull to pick one up before they’re “gone forever,” whether that’s actually true or not, becomes stronger yet. That doesn’t mean that fans can’t complain along the way, but if they try and protest, someone else probably will swoop in and avoid having to pay exorbitant prices on the Internet instead. Can you really blame them?

Next: This Week in Bad Pop Culture Ideas: Batman 2019

And so it all continues.