From the moment the NES Classic was released in late 2016, there was only one thing on the mind of an entire generation of gamers: When would we get the SNES Classic? Although the original NES was the launch pad for a number of Nintendo's legendary heroes, it was when Super Nintendo came through that the company really found its stride, thanks to technological advances and a better understanding of what gamers wanted in a home console.
So with one small announcement from their Twitter page on Monday afternoon, Nintendo sent fans into a frenzy by officially revealing the SNES Classic.
The lineup of games helped add to the hype. In addition to classics like Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario World, Super Metroid, and Mega Man X, more obscure titles will make their way to the SNES Classic. Fans will finally get their hands on Star Fox 2, a previously unreleased sequel in the series, and beloved RPG EarthBound will be part of the collection. For perspective on the demand for the latter, a mint-condition, SNES copy of the latter game is currently selling on eBay for up to $3000.
This sounds like it's almost impossible for Nintendo to screw up, right? Think again. Despite having an iconic backlog of first-party games and outrageous demand for something like this, the Japanese video game giant has a history of fumbling opportunities before. Even during their most successful periods, Nintendo has consistently let down fans by failing to give them a proper chance to buy their products.
Look no further than the rollout for the NES Classic. Viewed as a potential blockbuster gift of the 2016 holiday season, the launch of the updated console will be remembered primarily for massive supply issues. Apparently caught off guard by the demand for their product—who could have guessed people wanted to play their classic games?—Nintendo was forced to add extra, unplanned for shipments in order to keep up with consumer desire.
In a statement he gave to Time, Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aimé revealed just how bewildered they were by the whole thing.
"We had originally planned for this to be a product for last holiday," he said. "We just didn't anticipate how incredible the response would be. Once we saw that response, we added shipments and extended the product for as long as we could to meet more of that consumer demand."
Once you move past the irony of the man turned into a meme for telling a crowd, "my body is ready" being forced to admit his company was unprepared, it's infuriating to think Nintendo executives could be caught so flat-footed. On top of the lacking supply, Nintendo did not make clear where the console would be available, how many devices would be shipped, or even how long it would remain in stock. Much to the surprise of fans, the company discontinued the product altogether in April, and executives say they have no plans to produce any more.
As a company, Nintendo has chosen not to compete head on with the likes of Sony and Microsoft in the console wars, instead focusing on the lane they've carved out for themselves over decades, producing games and systems that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and levels of gaming dedication. That was the genius behind the Wii, which got people to buy a console for silly motion games that otherwise have no interest in video games. They're trying to recreate that success with the Switch, which doubles as a home console and a sort of gaming tablet you can carry with you everywhere.
But the Switch's launch has also been marred by availability issues. Thanks to a universally acclaimed launch title like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo was all set to rake in sales of their new console. Unfortunately, they were caught in a supply issue once again, and they continue to plague the Switch months after its release. If you believe some people in the know, parts issues will continue to extend production delays for the console.
Expect Nintendo Switch shortages to continue through the rest of the year.— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) June 20, 2017
Production is still capped right now due to component shortages.
In fact, outside of the Wii U—the relatively unsuccessful follow-up to the Wii—availability has been a problem for Nintendo dating back at least a decade. Articles still available from May 2007 highlighted a scarcity problem Nintendo had with the Wii, half a year after the console launched in North America. Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata was forced to answer questions on the topic, and he said something that might sound familiar.
"We are sorry that we were unable to sufficiently forecast this kind of demand," said Iwata. "Making a significant volume of the high-tech hardware, and making an additional volume, is not an easy task at all."
Perhaps this is breaking news to Nintendo executives, but people want to play their games! Even as some of their core fans grow older, Nintendo's mix of nostalgia, innovative gameplay, and iconic characters bridges generational gaps. Adult gamers know they can pick up Mario, Zelda, or Donkey Kong games and enjoy them on their own or share the experience with family. Their games may not have the 4K graphics of competitors, but they are filled to the brim with charm and possess enough gameplay depth to satisfy all comers.
If you want a glimpse of the frustration brewed by Nintendo, read the responses to the SNES Classic announcement, and you'll see they've dulled excitement for people who may otherwise be stoked for a new product.
omfg nintendo are u going to make more than like 20 of these this time i am just asking https://t.co/gGwqKtrn9U— darth:™ (@darth) June 26, 2017
Includes all the classic things Nintendo is known for! Like Mario, Star Fox, Zelda and crippling distribution issues! https://t.co/eSo0LJnCqp— LowSpecGamer (@LowSpec_Gamer) June 26, 2017
Nintendo knows it has an excellent product that people want, and they don't need to create an artificial demand by offering limited supply. Yet that's what they've done time and time again with their products, and eventually, the practice turns people off from getting excited about your releases at all.
The SNES Classic represents a shot at redemption for the video game giant. If Nintendo has any sense, they'll get their production lines in order and seize the opportunity there for the taking.