It Shouldn't Be This Hard To Buy a SNES Classic Edition

Sometimes, Nintendo makes it hard to be a fan.

Opinion by Mike Williams, .

I have a pre-order for a Super Nintendo Entertainment System: Classic Edition. I may have have missed its predecessor, the now-defunct NES: Classic Edition, but this time I'm at least on the good side of the 50/50 chance of getting one. Sure, the pre-order may be cancelled, but at least I got in there. Other folks weren't as lucky.

Good luck on the hunt.

Yesterday morning at 1:12 AM Eastern Time, the SNES Classic went up for pre-order at Best Buy. If you happened to be awake, you had a good 20 minutes of availability before the pre-order page showed an out-of-stock notice. Another pre-order page went up on Amazon at around 4:36AM Eastern time, this time under a completely new and random listing than the standard Amazon SNES Classic page. The Amazon listing dropped off around 5AM; the longer availability times were likely because folks were asleep.

Nintendo also updated the official SNES Classic website, noting that pre-orders would be available in the United States from six retailers: Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, Target, Toys R Us, and Walmart. Two retailers down, four to go; the hope is kindled.

Walmart offered its pre-orders at 1PM ET the same day. The system was listed as out-of-stock a minute later. Target offered their pre-order stock at 1:15PM. Target went out-of-stock fairly quick, but it didn't really go out-of-stock. Instead, folks have found that randomly checking the SNES Classic listing will occasionally let you pre-order the system. Those lucky enough to add a pre-order unit to their cart have reported a better than likely chance that the system will be removed from your cart during the process of inputting your payment method and address. Just to have the chance to reach the cart phase, some have installed autoclickers on their PC to hit the Pre-Order button over and over again.

GameStop announced at around the same time that it was offering SNES Classic systems online and in-store. Online, the rush actually killed the official GameStop website. (As of this writing, the site is still down.) The dead website redirect to ThinkGeek, which also sold SNES Classics, but primarily in exorbitant bundles. If you wanted an SNES Classic with ThinkGeek's cast-off tchotchkes, you could expect an upgrade of $60 at minimum, with the most expensive bundle offering the system and Breath of the Wild canvas art for $329.99.

GameStop in-store became a brief crush of people leaving jobs and school midday for the mere chance of getting a pre-order. Some on Reddit, NeoGAF, and other places noted waiting for 30 minutes to an hour to grab available pre-orders. And despite what Nintendo's official website says, Toys R Us announced that it wouldn't be offering pre-orders at all. If you want one, you have to go to a store on launch day, September 29, 2017.

If this all seems like a lot of work, that's because it is. A friend asked me if was even worth him looking for one as a casual consumer. I told him, "probably not", as to even get a hint of a SNES Classic I had to be watching the internet most of the day.

In contrast, the Xbox One X pre-orders went live at most major retailers at the same time, following Microsoft's Gamescom 2017 streaming event. The special Xbox One X Project Scorpio Edition is the launch unit and that is running out-of-stock at many retailers, but once it's gone, you'll be able to still purchase the Xbox One X. There was a unified start time for Xbox One X pre-orders, making pre-ordering a relatively straightforward affair. Before you go "Well no one wants an Xbox One X," the same was true for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Sony and Microsoft can make it work, so why is it so hard for Nintendo?

I've written this article before. I did it for Amiibo stock, where I noted that the combination of low stock, poor communication, and scalpers meant folks were having an impossible time finding the little figures. (This is still somewhat of a problem by the way; if you want to unlock Fusion Mode in Metroid: Samus Returns, you need the Metroid Amiibo, which is currently out-of-stock in many places.) I wrote about how Nintendo's conservative stock for the NES Classic might be good for Nintendo, but it's bad for consumers.

All this was before Nintendo decided to ultimately discontinue the NES Classic, meaning what was out was all there was going to be. Prices rose on Ebay and other places. It wasn't a pretty situation.

"NES Classic Edition wasn't intended to be an ongoing, long-term product. However, due to high demand, we did add extra shipments to our original plans," a Nintendo spokesperson said at the time.

Maybe you got lucky. Many did not.

Outside of that statement on its own, the problem is this changed expectations for the SNES Classic. So not only did folks expect it to be hard to find, but the NES Classic being discontinued meant the same short shelf life for this system. Nintendo has said there will be a "significant amount of additional systems will be shipped to stores for launch day" and the calendar year, but Nintendo's view of what "significant" constitutes isn't all that clear. Especially since the "extra shipments" of NES Classic systems were nowhere near enough.

So why does Nintendo fall prey to these problems time-and-time again? It's quite easy to surmise that they don't care. The average person's lack of ability to buy an NES Classic doesn't factor as a Nintendo problem; they sold their allotment of systems and they're moving on. The same will be true of SNES Classic. They don't have to coordinate with retailers for a single pre-order date and time, because we'll all scramble to buy one regardless. Nintendo won't be harmed in the process and they don't particularly care about you and I.

Nintendo could solve many of the issues here by simply stating, "We'll continue to produce the Super Nintendo Entertainment System: Classic Edition until demand has subsided." That simple statement alleviates a number of issues. Sure, you might not get one at launch, but like the Nintendo Switch itself, if you wait, further shipments will take care of your need.

It also lowers the rush of scalpers a bit, because the system isn't seen as immediately hard to get; the more available a product becomes, the less profitable it is for scalpers. And once scalpers enter the picture eh masse, they have bots and other ways to get stock before the average person can.

Yes, there are parts of this entire enterprise that are out of Nintendo's control. But much of it is firmly within the company's hands. They could and should produce the system in sufficient quantities so that the average consumer can buy the SNES Classic without becoming a system hunter online. They should communicate the ability to offer up more of the system for consumers. And they need to get onboard with retail partners to coordinate something approaching a single open set of pre-orders, instead of the random grab bag of different circumstances.

I doubt anything will change though, because as I said before, it doesn't have to. Nintendo will produce as many as it needs to hit internal estimates and handily sell all of them. Maybe the company will learn from previous errors and be a bit more consumer friendly in the future. I'm not holding my breath though.

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Comments 44

  • Avatar for nathanstinson41 #1 nathanstinson41 5 months ago
    So the big question is... How did you get your pre-order?

    What is so immensely frustrating for me is that I legitimately got a copy in the Walmart Fiasco from a month ago. But of course it was cancelled. And yesterday I had no chance of getting any of those pre orders that went online or in stores. It's almost like Nintendo wants to lose me as a fan boy. It definitely is very disillusioning.
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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #2 SIGGYZtar 5 months ago
    Nintendo's desire to make a profit off these things must be really hampering availability, considering there has to be a point where making these things would force the company to actually find alternate manufacturers to meet demand. Microsoft and Sony don't care about initial losses, since most of their money is based off software sales and subscriptions, something Nintendo has always been reluctant to rely on.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #3 MHWilliams 5 months ago
    @nathanstinson41 I was one of the folks randomly clicking Target throughout the day hoping to get lucky. I did. I shouldn't have had to.
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  • Avatar for superberg #4 superberg 5 months ago
    Honestly, this whole thing is ridiculous. They could make a mint selling classic console controllers that pair the Switch and get Virtual Console running there. They'd be able to sell the games for double the cost per game of the NES classic AND get money for the extra hardware.

    But no. Nintendo likes making things difficult. Imagine any other company stating that a popular and constantly sold out product was meant to be a limited run. If Tim Cook told his board that the iPhone 7 Plus was meant to be sold in limited quantities, he'd be out of a job within 24 hours.
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  • Avatar for manoffeeling #5 manoffeeling 5 months ago
    Isn't this article already on this site? Like, right below this article?
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  • Avatar for Talraen #6 Talraen 5 months ago
    I think the reason I get so upset about this is because I'm completely at their mercy. What am I going to do, boycott Nintendo? That would hurt me, not them. All I can do is complain about it on the internet, and we all know what good that does.
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  • Avatar for themblan #7 themblan 5 months ago
    I have eschewed my Nintendo fanchildism.
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  • Avatar for soloskywalker #8 soloskywalker 5 months ago
    @MHWilliams i was doing that exact thing throughout the day yesterday on target and managed to get one on my last try before bed. what a terrible buying experience.
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  • Avatar for jimgamer #9 jimgamer 5 months ago
    Good article. It does feel like somewhere in Nintendo a decision has been made to monetize the SNES with this emulator product purely on the basis of 3m units/$220m profit for 2017. They will meet that goal. But the decision seems completely devoid of concerns around existing fans, around broadening the audience (thinking kids walking into Target and seeing one, eyes wide in wonder), and the BS about looking after their IP appropriately (the reason for caution around jamming all their characters on iOS). It's a short term money making/hype generating exercise. I'm assuming short-lived as they will want to start a virtual console service for Switch which they won't want to cannibalize. Very sad for the average consumer to be treated like this. I did get one on GameStop after several painful hours. Bittersweet though.
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  • Avatar for Nuclear-Vomit #10 Nuclear-Vomit 5 months ago
    All the non-believers are panicking that they will not get their salvation. Those are have met with Mario and knows his sacrifice will receive the fable SNES Classic... We will ascend into Gaming Heaven, while everyone else will be left behind along with those that bear the Mark of the Hedgehog. They will be left behind to deal with the plagues. And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #11 Kuni-Nino 5 months ago
    Yeah, it's hard to be a fan when you can't get a console because there's too many thirsty people out there. But then it's easy to be a fan when they announce Lola Pop, are giving us a new Metroid and a new 3D Mario, all while having a GOAT year in publishing games.

    As a consumer, it's good to realize you can't have it all so try to focus on things you can get and what's ultimately worth it to you.
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  • Avatar for Wellman2nd #12 Wellman2nd 5 months ago
    @MHWilliams I was one of those people that was monitoring twitter and bounced out of work to the nearest game stop on my next break. Managed to get one of the last ones in that store. Yeah, this wreaks of cheap business politics that Nintendo at times gets in trouble for while at the same time manages to skate away with profit.
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  • Avatar for AstroDemon #13 AstroDemon 5 months ago
    This reminds me of a telescope I used to lust over made by a company called Astro-Physics out of Rockford, IL. They were and still are some of the best made consumer scopes on the market, but they had legendary 7-year waiting lists for some scopes. I got tired of waiting and bought the competitor Japanese telescope made by Takahashi that was as good, cheaper (but still expensive!), and readily available. I haven't looked back since, and I've enjoyed the heck out it for the last 7 years doing lots of good work, rather than waiting for the other scope to become available. Astro-Physics misses many opportunities to do business because they refuse to grow the company to meet demand, and that seems to work for them, but they remain a small company, and they don't seem to care that they continue to turn away business.

    Nintendo is a business that needs to make a profit to survive, so like Mike said, they can produce however many they need in order to hit their internal goals. They could make a lot more money if they grew and produced more units, but I don't think that's their objective all the time. I would have bought the NES and SNES Classics, but I'm not going to go out of my way for one. I may eventually buy a Switch, but I still haven't seen one in the wild here in Colorado, or online. None of my friends have one either, so there's no pressure to buy one yet. I love my Wii U and 3DS, but as time goes on, I will eventually forget about the Switch if it's not available for me to buy soon.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #14 Roto13 5 months ago
    The SNES Classic (like the NES Classic before it) is neat, but I don't think it's worth stressing out over if you can't get one. There are tons of ways to play most of those games (both legitimately and not-so-legitimately) if you really want to, and the complete version of Star Fox 2 will probably make its way onto the internet eventually.

    Of all the things Nintendo underproduces, these mini consoles seem like the least necessary to own. Unlike missing out on a bunch of Switch games because you can't find a Switch anywhere.
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  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #15 Funny_Colour_Blue 5 months ago
    I would not call this being a fan of Nintendo consumer electronics.

    This is just bad customer service.
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  • Avatar for hiyer1 #16 hiyer1 5 months ago
    Fuck Nintendo.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #17 MHWilliams 5 months ago
    @manoffeeling Matt's article is largely a collection of reactions to the issue. This is an Op-Ed on the issue. Two different articles, two different points.
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  • Avatar for mouse-clicker #18 mouse-clicker 5 months ago
    So it's Nintendo's fault that this thing is super popular? I'm confused. I think there's literally no way for them to realistically handle this situation that wouldn't piss someone off. Especially not when they're also manufacturing two other systems that are selling better and have games that you can buy for them.

    Jesus, the salt is so intense!
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #19 kidgorilla 5 months ago
    Somewhere, the ghost of Yamauchi is enjoying a belly laugh and glass of scotch
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  • Avatar for Talraen #20 Talraen 5 months ago
    @mouse-clicker All they need to do is make more units, and keep producing them as long as there's demand. Who is that going to piss off?
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  • Avatar for Nuclear-Vomit #21 Nuclear-Vomit 5 months ago
    @kidgorilla LOL. He never truly died. He had ascended and now in the loving bosom of Nintendo. Nintendo bless you, my child.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #22 MHWilliams 5 months ago
    @mouse-clicker No salt. I got two.

    Nintendo can absolutely keep manufacturing the system. Pretty simple.
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  • Avatar for nathanstinson41 #23 nathanstinson41 5 months ago
    @MHWilliams I tried doing that for around an hour to no success. Glad it worked for you though
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #24 Kuni-Nino 5 months ago
    We don't even know how many systems Nintendo is going to manufacture. It's quite possible most people that want it will get it on a second or third wave of shipments, so patience might pay off.

    But it's the Internet and patience and perspective takes a backseat to rage and jumping to conclusions. Not speaking about this article btw since I actually find this one to be pretty pragmatic.
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #25 kidgorilla 5 months ago
    @MHWilliams I'll give you $80 for one
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  • Avatar for Talraen #26 Talraen 5 months ago
    @Kuni-Nino That's what I thought for the NES Classic, until Nintendo explicitly said they weren't going to continue it. While they have indicated they will be shipping more of these, they've also said it's still limited. The reasonable conclusion is that this will be similarly hard to get, due to the demand so far. What reason do you have to conclude otherwise?
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  • Avatar for chud666 #27 chud666 5 months ago
    @Talraen but you can. And should in my opinion. The tepid response to the Wii U shows that these sort of things do hurt them.
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #28 MHWilliams 5 months ago
    @kidgorilla The two I have are the two I set out for and one is not me. Sadly, it's not a situation where I just have an extra. It's also not a collector thing, where I'll have one on the shelf, which is a maddening thing.
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  • Avatar for sylvan #29 sylvan 5 months ago
    I've gotten off the Nintendo supply merry-go-round. After the NES Classic I finally accepted what has been pretty evident for the last decade or so: Nintendo doesn't care about its consumers or fanbase. It's just that simple. So I find it difficult to care about the Big N any more.

    Maybe I'll pick up a used Switch sometime in the middle or end of the console's life. Idk, maybe not. Sadly after 30 years of being an avid and loyal fan nowadays all they can get out of me is an apathetic "meh".
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #30 Kuni-Nino 5 months ago
    @Talraen I'm assuming that Nintendo has seen demand, calculated a probability and is going to stick to that number. It's an SNES. How many millions of people are out there that want one especially one that can only play 20 games? It's a novelty product with limited appeal thus Nintendo is treating it as such by producing it for a limited time.

    Nintendo has two consoles out right now that need support and need quality games. That's their path towards a stable future. I think Nintendo will be satisfied selling 2 million of these SNESs (if even that) and calling it a day. That's probably the most a product like that CAN sell if we start making predictions.
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  • Avatar for Talraen #31 Talraen 5 months ago
    @Kuni-Nino I'm not interested in whether Nintendo is satisfied with their sales, I'm interested in whether I can get one for retail price. If they meet demand exactly, the majority of these will end up in the hands of scalpers.
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  • Avatar for kidgorilla #32 kidgorilla 5 months ago
    @MHWilliams Ha, just a joke at the expense of scalpers
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  • Avatar for MHWilliams #33 MHWilliams 5 months ago
    @Kuni-Nino They sold 2.3 million NES Classics, which was clearly far below demand.
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  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #34 donkeyintheforest 5 months ago
    Selling these until they are no longer in demand would be a bad idea in the long term for nintendo. There's a reason no IP still sell like mario, zelda, etc after so many years - its because there is a combination of not oversaturating the market and producing high quality games.

    That said, I wish they would do these as nintendo club (or whatever its called now) things so that the biggest fans could register to get one (and it would work to prevent scalping).

    I'm not gonna lose too much sleep cause there are way too many videogames in the world already, and plenty of ways to play these games in other ways (i wanted that star fox 2 though!).
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  • Avatar for ArugulaZ #35 ArugulaZ 5 months ago
    @MHWilliams Agreed. It's why I decided early on that I wasn't going to bother with the Super NES Classic. I'm not going to dance on Nintendo's strings to play games that are already available to me on a variety of formats. Not just emulation, either... I have a Super NES along with at least a dozen cartridges, including several games that won't be included in this system.

    Fad toys come and go, but the embarrassment of making an ass of yourself (and possibly harming others in a post-Thanksgiving rush to the door of the nearest retail store) lives forever.
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #36 Kuni-Nino 5 months ago
    @MHWilliam My 2 million mark was about right then. I doubt NES would have sold much more than that if it made more. It's a novelty product just like SNES. Nintendo is better off getting more Switch on the shelves.
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  • Avatar for DemiurgicSoul #37 DemiurgicSoul 5 months ago
    I refuse to buy one unless I can just walk into a store like a normal human being and buy it. I can't be lining up in front of Best Buy at 4am on a Tuesday so I can be one of the 8 people who can get one that day. Maybe if I was still in college I would do that, but that sort of nonsense just doesn't fit into my life anymore.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #38 Roto13 5 months ago
    @DemiurgicSoul I got a NES Mini right before they stopped existing by being at a local game store when it opened (at like 10:30 AM) the day they got their second last shipment, which they posted about on Facebook that morning. Not quite as simple as going into a Gamestop after work, but a far cry from lining up in the cold for a midnight launch or something.
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  • Avatar for snowscrow #39 snowscrow 5 months ago
    I had no problem pre-ordering my 2DS XL, just sayin'......
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  • Avatar for DemiurgicSoul #40 DemiurgicSoul 5 months ago
    @Roto13 i tried going to stores when they opened and had new shipments, but either people had lined up hours before the stores opened, or they gave out tickets ahead of time. I just don't have the time or patience for that anymore.
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  • Avatar for TheWildCard #41 TheWildCard 5 months ago
    I think the higher ups just got off on consumer angst at this point. I'd easily pay the $80 but I ain't going to jump through multiple hoops for one.
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  • Avatar for JetPilot #42 JetPilot 5 months ago
    @Kuni-Nino It's not jumping to conclusions when this has been Nintendo's standard operating procedure for 3+ decades.
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  • Avatar for EatSleepPlay #43 EatSleepPlay 5 months ago
    Well said Mike, you're spot on when you say Nintendo doesn't care, I couldn't have put it any better. A normal company would make enough to satisfy demand, basic business strategy but instead like the NES mini fiasco Nintendo is just in it to help scalpers make a profit while fans who've played Nintendo since childhood can just shove it
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  • Avatar for Jeremiah-Jones #44 Jeremiah-Jones 5 months ago
    The thing I wonder about this is: Doesn't Nintendo see how making it so hard will hurt them later on if they continue? Eventually people will stop caring, and that is sad.
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