Monday, 17 April 2017

Nintendo Discontinuing the NES Mini + A Random Nintendo Rant


Well, I'm here again with another topic that has already been covered to death across the interwebs but I'm struggling with ideas for gaming-related posts at the moment so ripping into Nintendo for something they've done seems like a reasonable way to fill a void with some content...if you can call it "content" (which even I wouldn't to be fair).

ANYWAY, Nintendo recently announced their decision to discontinue production of the NES Classic Edition/NES Mini/That Thing That Was Never In Stock, a press release that was met with a universal "buh?" from the gaming community. The puzzled reaction was hardly a surprise either for this thing has been selling like crazy since its release and - to my knowledge - has never not been a hot product, always out of stock and being sold by shameless scalping re-sellers for way over the standard RRP. People still want one and yet, with the stock shortages still not resolved, Nintendo have pulled the plug.

Now I have to ask: what on earth are they thinking? I could waffle on for paragraphs about this decision of theirs and why it makes no sense but for ease of reading, I'll summarise the main points as I see them into a handy little list.
  1. Consumers are still prepared to hand over their cash for one. Why would you stop manufacturing it?
  2. Stores are constantly out of stock or never received what would be described as adequate stock. Surely they will still be interested in placing orders with distributers?
  3. Nintendo's loyal fans are pissed-off that they couldn't/can't get their hands on a unit and are being exploited by re-sellers. Is not resolving this problem really the best way to keep a fanbase happy?
  4. Nintendo are just feeding the suspicion that they have deliberately manufactured a market hype by purposely limiting the supply of a product and receiving a huge buzz around their name in the process.
I have heard a few theories from those seeking to defend Nintendo or give a rational explanation for their decision to discontinue the NES Classic. These range from there not being that much of a profit in the unit for them to Nintendo simply wanting to pour all available manufacturing resources into the Switch. Fair enough you might say BUT these reasons still do nothing to excuse how crappy this whole saga has been for the last few months. More importantly, it does nothing to address my third and fourth points above.

Remember THIS "limited" stock situation from the 90's?
Nintendo have their roots in the toy business and in many respects, they still are a toy manufacturer. As is well-documented, toy manufacturers love to intentionally create supply shortages of hot products around the Christmas period in order to whip up a marketing and media frenzy for their benefit. They can then blame the situation on "unexpected demand" and the time that it takes to manufacture more stock. Sound familiar? They can then drip-feed fresh stock to the market knowing that desperate consumers will immediately snap it up, leaving no unsold inventory behind. You can compare the NES Mini to the Buzz Lightyear action figure in this respect and the biggest tragedy stemming from these kinds of tactics is that consumers won't vote with their wallets and give the manufacturer the finger for their future products. In the case of actual toys, this isn't always possible if you are attempting to secure something for your child because naturally, you will do everything you can to make them smile at Christmas. For grown adults trying to buy a videogame-related product though? Surely there is a point when "enough is enough" has to become the overwhelming sentiment.

We only recently saw the exact same situation with the Amiibo figurine line (a product even closer to toys) and while the supply situation was ultimately rectified, we still saw certain figures produced in suspiciously smaller quantities and selling for three, four or five times their RRP on places like ebay. Worse still, it brought the most toxic of attitudes within the gaming community to the forefront with certain people buying up all available stock of certain Amiibo and being quoted as saying that they were intentionally preventing others from acquiring the likes of Rosalina or Lucina so that their own collection(s) would be more valuable. How on earth does any of this fit into gaming being about fun, entertainment and escapism? Suddenly, games have become more akin to stocks and shares...or the last scraps of food in a starving, post-apocalyptic world.

Do they purposely take advantage of pervs and otaku?
The funny thing with the Amiibo saga is that many of the "short supply" figurines were the female characters such as Rosalina, Lucina and the Wii Fit Trainer. Now obviously these characters are popular with people of all age brackets but also with pervs and Otaku types who give a thumbs-up to the sort of fan art that I just found on Google Images (left). I'm not always entirely opposed to such creations if produced with some reasonable artistic skill but *ahem* could it be that Nintendo are quite calculating and limit the supply of female figures to take full advantage of those that they know wanted these particular Amiibo? This is just one example I thought of but I considered it odd that Rosalina was always so difficult to find in stores when Princess Peach wasn't. Yeah, you could come back at me with the whole popularity argument blah-de-blah-de-blah but the demand was there and Rosalina has always been a hugely popular fan character ever since the Mario Galaxy games so there's no way that Nintendo would have been so dense as to expect her to be a niche part of their Amiibo line-up. They know exactly what they are doing and at the end of the day, it comes to down to choosing whether to believe they are:
  • Innocently attempting to minimise unsold inventory
  • Genuinely so stupid as to do themselves out of sales by not understanding what will and won't be in demand from their own catalogue of products
  • Playing us all by controlling stock supply to maximise media attention and increase people's hunger for products.
I for one do not for a second believe that Nintendo are stupid. Yes, they have made some pretty disastrous decisions recently with the likes of the Wii-U and (arguably) the Gamecube but look at how long they have survived in a hostile industry, remember some of their dubious 1980's practices and honestly tell me that they don't do this sort of thing on purpose.

I for one have pretty much had it with Nintendo and anything of theirs that is needlessly difficult to obtain or sells out within minutes. The recent Fire Emblem Fates saga (and boy have I talked about that at length on this blog) really made me question the point in it all. Most Nintendo limited/collector's/special editions are produced in ridiculously tiny quantities and sell out on pre-order more or less immediately so unless you research the time that a product is going to go on sale and then get yourself online at some sort of dark, unsociable hour then you're screwed. The same thing doesn't happen with the majority of Playstation or Xbox collector's editions and honestly, all those lengths that you have to go to just aren't part of what makes gaming enjoyable for me. You have to jump through hoops and even though me saying "I'm done" will have no effect on the bigger picture, I'm happy to no longer want to jump through hoops.

I don't care HOW you try to seduce me, Nintendo...
And the thing is, you're not just jumping when Nintendo's marketing department says "jump", you're also entering a shitty world of scalpers, the aforementioned vile collector types, sealed game collectors and so forth. This is really a topic for another time but when you have people buying multiple copies of games to keep sealed on a shelf, never to be played, it really pisses me off if I just want to play the damn game or - if it's an LE or some sort - enjoy the contents of the box. Collectors not content with one copy and those treating games like stocks only compound an issue that Nintendo began. The end result is a shitstorm of frustration, anger and wasted time that only a limited few will emerge from with the goods at the correct price and a relieved smile on their face.

I've gone extremely off-topic here haven't I? Discussing the demise of the NES Mini has led on to Amiibo, scalpers and me padding this crappy essay out with dubious imagery so I can only apologise if you're confused or offended in any way. Then again, you probably won't still be reading this if you fall into those camps. To summarise by returning to the original topic, the whole thing has been a joke as far as I'm concerned; a real "f*** you" to the fans that Nintendo are supposed to be satisfying in exchange for their continued support. Not to mention the fact that they seem to be doing themselves out of many thousands of additional sales. All I can say is that this will be a drop in the ocean compared to what will happen if they announce a SNES Mini...

2 comments:

  1. I was going to do a post on the whole Mini Nes situation but I have to say you have got there faster and done better than I would have. There is one thing I would like to say though so I will do that by commenting here. I think one of the major reasons they are dropping it is because it has so easily been hacked. Nintendo wanted this nice little sealed unit with only a few games on it, mostly so they could continue to sell NES games on there major consoles online stores for £3.50 a piece and yet still have people buy this as some kind of fancy mini shelf piece, however the hackers have ruined that situation, you can now grab a NES Mini if your lucky enough to actually find one for sale and play every NES game ever on something thats very close to real NES hardware and ignore whatever they stick on the Wii U or 3DS virtual store NES wise.

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    1. That's a great point that I genuinely forgot about. However, I would also add that this situation was pretty much ongoing before the hacking gained serious traction/publicity.

      Definitely do your own post on the subject though! I'd be interested to read your angle on the topic for sure.

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