If you can’t figure out what Nintendo’s doing with its
outrageously popular Classic Edition game consoles, you’re not
I’m as baffled as you are.
To try to clear things up, I asked Nintendo officials
recently about the company’s line of miniature retro
game machines, which includes the new $80 Super Nintendo
Entertainment System Classic Edition:
What’s the strategy with these devices? Will they be
produced in limited quantities? Will Nintendo continue to
Their answers, unfortunately, did little to clear things
“Clearly (the Classic Edition line) is a part of our strategy,”
said Doug Bowser, Nintendo of America’s senior vice president of
sales and marketing. “We’ve seen the power of retro games and the
affinity towards them. As we look forward, we’re looking at how
we can mix that retro content that people love and enjoy, but
also new content that we’re bringing to the market. So it’s a
part of the plan.”
Even after talking with Bowser and other company officials, I
still have no idea what Nintendo’s strategy is with the Classic
Edition devices. And I’m guessing most people in the hunt for a
SNES Classic this holiday season are in the same
What’s driving this confusion and frustration is that the retro
consoles have been really hard to find.
When the company launched the $60 Nintendo Entertainment System
Classic Edition late last year, the mini game machine sold out
everywhere almost immediately. Consumers were still looking all
over for the gadget — and paying outrageous prices
for it on eBay — when Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic
Last month, the process seemed to repeat itself when the company
released the SNES Classic. People lined up overnight for the
console, and it quickly sold out.
Simply put, you can’t just walk into a store and buy either of
Nintendo’s “Classic Edition” mini consoles right now. And that
situation — and Nintendo’s response to it so far — has left
consumers wondering whether the company has any
intention of improving things.
Company officials assured me Nintendo does, but said it’s not as
easy as it sounds.
“Obviously we always want to meet the demand that’s there,” Bill
Trinen, Nintendo of America’s senior product marketing manager,
said this weekend. “But sometimes the demand ends up being bigger
than you expect.”
Nintendo fans are familiar with that response from the
company. It’s the same answer Nintendo gave
when the Wii was sold out everywhere. It’s the same answer
the company gave when the Switch was in short supply. And
it’s the same answer
Nintendo gave when the NES Classic was impossible to find.
The answer points to how terrible Nintendo seems to
consistently be at forecasting sales of its own products. But it
does nothing to set consumer expectations. And that’s a
particular problem when it comes to the Classic Edition line.
When Nintendo launched the Wii and the Switch, consumers
could be assured that the company would produce the devices
for the foreseeable future. Even if consumers couldn’t
buy one of the game machines at launch, it just
meant they would have to wait until more were available. And more
were certainly on the way.
But with the NES and SNES Classic devices, Nintendo’s offering
confusion rather than clarity. Originally, it only offered
the NES Classic from November until April. But recently the
company announced it will resume production of the device
sometime next summer.
Meanwhile, it’s currently saying it will only produce the SNES
Classic through “early 2018.” If demand far outpaces supply for
that device too, will it resume production of it sometime soon
thereafter also? Who knows?
Maybe Nintendo worries that if it keeps devices such as
the NES and SNES Classic in production on an ongoing
basis, consumers will be less likely to buy for its newer
consoles digital versions of the classic games they can play on
those retro machines. Or maybe Nintendo would rather just focus
its production efforts on the Switch. Or maybe there’s
something else entirely going on.
It’s just not clear.
Usually a company’s business strategy wouldn’t matter much to the
average person. But in the case of these Classic Edition
consoles, Nintendo’s lack of clarity leaves everyday consumers in
the lurch. Potential buyers have no idea whether
they need to buy one this year — and possibly pay
premium money on reseller sites like eBay to get one — or if they
can afford to wait.
It makes for a stressful situation for people who just
want to buy the Classic Edition consoles, and it risks sullying
an otherwise wildly popular line products.