Most companies, having unexpectedly stumbled into an extremely popular product, would gear up for production, hire more people, increase supply, and ride the revenue train for as long as they could. Nintendo is not most companies. According to Reggie Fils-Aimé, the company killed the NES Classic Edition after selling 2.3 million units, because it had a lot of other stuff to do.
“We had originally planned for this to be a product for last holiday,” Fils-Aimé told Time. “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.”
This is an absurd justification. Nintendo isn’t a fly-by-night startup struggling with its production chain or a cash-strapped newcomer in a crowded market. Despite the Wii U’s complete failure and the 3DS’ waning sales, the company reported $ 2.4 billion in profits through 2016. Nintendo has longstanding relationships with manufacturers and there’s no conceivable way that the company simply ran out of manufacturing funds — which makes Fils-Aimé’s follow-up comments all the more ridiculous. Having sold 2.3 million consoles in just under six months (a sales rate which absolutely dwarfs the Wii U’s throughout 2016), Nintendo decided it had sold enough hardware.
“Even with that extraordinary level of performance, we understand that people are frustrated about not being able to find the system, and for that we really do apologize,” Fils-Aimé said. “But from our perspective, it’s important to recognize where our future is and the key areas that we need to drive. We’ve got a lot going on right now and we don’t have unlimited resources.”
Back in January, Nintendo was apologizing to consumers for the inconvenience caused by shortages, without a peep concerning future cancellations. I believe Fils-Aimé when he says that the product was more popular than Nintendo realized it would be, and that the firm had initially intended a limited-run holiday release. What I don’t believe is that the company’s decision to cancel its NES Classic has anything to do with insufficient resource allocation. Nintendo is sitting on plenty of cash and turned a respectable profit even with anemic living room console sales in 2016. The NES Classic Edition was moving more units than the Wii U on a monthly basis and any company actually interested in maximizing revenue would have expanded production.
The consumer-hostile decision to kill the NES Classic Edition could have been driven by a desire to bring NES games to the Switch. Nintendo has made a bundle of money selling the same titles on various iterations of its consoles. It might have been killed because Nintendo wants to issue an SNES Classic this holiday season, and doesn’t want the NES Classic cutting into that market. (In theory, Nintendo could offer both consoles on the same silicon.) Alternately, Nintendo may have killed the Classic because it didn’t want the platform cutting into Switch sales. After all, Nintendo wants you to buy its latest platform to keep you engaged — there aren’t new NES games coming out and selling you a Classic doesn’t keep you plugged into the Nintendo ecosystem.
But regardless of the specific reason, the net result is that would-be customers who spent months attempting to buy an NES Classic for something less than the hundreds of dollars they were selling for on eBay got shafted. That’s reason enough to avoid these nostalgia bombs in the future.