I have no idea how much money Nintendo missed out on because it failed to keep the NES Classic Edition adequately stocked over the holiday season. I can't even give you an estimate. I know very little about analytics; I'm not a numbers person.
I'm more of a words person. All I can offer you as proof that Nintendo screwed the pooch with the NES Classic are a couple of anecdotes. Here's a good one.
I had surgery at the end of November last year. As I was being prepped to have my abdomen sliced open and the doctors were doing their small-talk thing (it was not my first time at the operating theatre rodeo), they asked what I did for a living. I told them.
The anaesthesiologist stopped just before he injected my IV line with a huge syringe of The Good Stuff, and said "Oh, man. Can you tell me where to get one of those mini-NES things? I can't find one anywhere. I'm dying."
Unfortunately, I had no answer for him. Actually, I just laughed; I was sedated and kind of drunk. But I had no coherent answer for the reams of people who asked me about the NES Classic's availability in the weeks following my surgery, including friends, family, acquaintances, gamers and non-gamers. I had no answer, because, again, Nintendo screwed the pooch with the NES Classic.
It appears Nintendo is determined to keep on humping the hound, too. Earlier today, Nintendo told IGN it plans to discontinue the NES Classic.
"Throughout April, NOA territories will receive the last shipments of Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition systems for this year," Nintendo said. "We encourage anyone interested in obtaining this system to check with retail outlets regarding availability."
It added, "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."
When video game archeologists (it's totally going to be a career in the future, start training up your kids now) study the detritus of the hobby, I doubt any discussion will generate as much heated bafflement as "What was Nintendo's deal with the NES Classic?" While I've noticed Japanese game developers sometimes overlook the powerful nostalgia behind their brands, Nintendo's never had qualms about cashing in on its past. Nor should it: The games and characters that made the company a household name are beloved for very good reasons. So even if I live long enough for my age to register as random NES junk-tiles instead of numbers, I'll never understand why Nintendo left such a huge, quivering stack of cash on the table.
Oh, I can take guesses. Maybe Nintendo doesn't want the NES Classic to interfere with the Switch's Virtual Console, whenever that rolls out. While this is the likeliest explanation, it's still dumb. The NES Classic Edition is the perfect serving platter for '80s nostalgia. Mom Wal-Mart who hasn't touched games since Axl Rose incited riots by no-showing at his concerts probably isn't going to drop $300 USD on the Switch, but she'll gladly spend $60 USD on an adorable little NES pre-loaded with the games she loved as a kid.
Maybe Mom Wal-Mart will play the NES Classic herself. Maybe she'll show the games to her children. Maybe she'll immediately forget she even bought the stupid thing after she tries to pull out of the parking lot and discovers in the worst way possible that she forgot the baby on the roof of her car. Ultimately, it doesn't matter what she does with the machine. Nintendo still has her money.
Also, Nintendo's 2016 holiday season was as bare as Yoshi's butt. A fat supply of NES Classics could've done a lot to plug up Nintendo's Wii U-inflicted wounds with cash. Didn't happen. I can't even. Can anyone even?
I suppose it's possible Nintendo has a follow-up in mind, e.g. a new NES Classic mode stuffed with even more games than the original (Ooh! Can we get a top-loader variant?). Maybe a Super Nintendo Classic Edition is in the works. Hey, it makes sense. Nintendo's statement to IGN carries a note of grim finality, though. If something is going to succeed the NES Classic Edition, the company's not offering any immediate clues or comfort.
Either way, this is the end of the road for the NES Classic Edition as we know it. Game Over. Everyone loses. Except for all the scalpers who are currently stripping down to dive into their money bins Scrooge McDuck-style.