Every once in awhile a company, or store, fails spectacularly in anticipating consumer demand for a product. This time it was the NES Classic Edition, hyped like crazy for months now, and sold out in minutes at every retailer. This time it was like a perfect storm, a trifecta of fails that left expectant gamers without their NES Classic. Nintendo failed to ship enough, the retailers failed to anticipate an issue and put a limit on purchases, but worse is scalpers took advantage of the situation to make a huge profit. Some people were reporting units going for as much as $1000 or more on eBay.
Of course it’s natural to want to blame Nintendo, they should have shipped more. Why they didn’t anticipate demand, I don’t know. Chris Grant at Polygon says there’s only two reasons…incompetent or underhanded. Well, I’m not so cynical. First, we all know Nintendo’s not incompetent. They’ve managed to become one of the most well-known names in gaming, and have been around longer than most gaming companies. You don’t accomplish that if you’re incompetent. As for underhanded? What’s the benefit? Doing something underhanded implies that you have ill-intent toward someone which is to your benefit. How exactly does it benefit Nintendo to only sell a fraction of the units they would have sold had they produced more? Fact is we don’t know why. Maybe retailers didn’t order enough, or production issues kept them from reaching a goal before release, or a number of other reasons that they could have failed. Contrary to what Chris says, there are more than two options.
Then we have the stores. Retailers like Target, Wal-Mart and Amazon didn’t put a limit on the number a person can buy. So people could buy 5, keep 1, and put 4 on eBay to let the bidding get to ridiculous highs. It’s similar to the failure with the Nuka Cola that was being bought up by employees at Target, and often resold online for a higher price. Then again, did they even anticipate a run on the console? Without spending a lot of time crunching numbers about a novelty legacy console releasing a couple of months before Christmas, I can’t possibly know what would have been expected. Hell, did anyone at either Nintendo or the big retailers know how popular retro gaming has become? Obviously they had some idea or why release the console in the first place, but retro gaming is making a pretty big comeback. Maybe they just didn’t have any idea how big.
I can’t really fault either of these two groups for anything more than not paying attention to the market and failing to anticipate demand. Scalpers though, those people intentionally took advantage of the situation, and if you ask me that’s pretty damn underhanded. Sure, free market and all that, but I’m not saying they don’t have the right to be jerks about it. Just noting that this kind of crap sucks. We see it with ticket sales more and more now. I recently tried to get tickets to an upcoming concert, but a ticket scalping company had bought all the general admission tickets and were selling them at a much higher price. Even setting their website name to be similar to the concert venue so it looked like you were buying tickets right from the convention center.
That’s really what bugs me the most about this situation. This wasn’t a mistake, or a failure in judgement. This was an intentional act to make a profit on gamers who rushed to the store only to find the console sold out. That’s an awful thing to do if you ask me, and I hope with the units coming soon, the retailers handle it a little better next time.
That’s the silver lining to this thing. Just this week Wal-Mart had more units that they put on sale each day at a particular time, and Nintendo has promised to ship more before Christmas. I know I am looking forward to getting mine, so I hope everyone does a better job. As for the scalpers, don’t buy those consoles for that price. Let those guys sit on the units, hopefully for a long time, until they’re worthless because the market is flooded with them.