Nintendo kind of flubbed production and distribution of the NES Classic. We know this. The Ancients know this. But, hey – at least it has a chance to make things better with the SNES Classic that's maybe-probably coming out this holiday season!
There are just two things wrong with Nintendo's probable plans for an SNES Classic:
- Nintendo sucks at learning lessons (or even pretending to learn lessons), which leads the company to make the same supply "mistakes" over and over.
- There's little chance the SNES Classic will generate the same hype the NES Classic kicked up when it was announced.
I'm excited by the idea of an SNES Classic. If you know enough about video games to understand the SNES Classic is a rumor at this point (i.e. not a tangible product with a solid release date announced across major 6 o'clock news outlets), you're probably intrigued, too. But the SNES Classic is far less likely than the NES Classic to catch the attention of people who simply want a cheap, convenient way to re-capture a few childhood memories.
I'm referring to Wal-Mart Mom. Remember her? The hypothetical woman who accidentally left her baby on the car roof after purchasing her NES Classic? Yeah. There's a good chance she played some NES games when she was a kid, but didn't move on to the SNES.
There might be several reasons why she never became an SNES owner. Maybe she was forced to abandon games as the pressures from schoolwork and young adult life mounted. Maybe she simply lost interest in games. Maybe she adopted the Sega Genesis or even the TurboGrafx 16 instead of the SNES, and those systems became joyfully synonymous with her teen years instead of the Super Nintendo.
See, as far as North America is concerned, gaming was never as unified as it was when the NES dominated the '80s and early '90s. Even the Atari CES shared the cultural spotlight with ColecoVision and Intellivision. After the industry crashed and resurrected, however, Nintendo was video games and video games were Nintendo. The little grey box was as much a fixture in American living rooms as VCRs and humongo floor-set televisions.
A lot changed when the Sega Genesis entered the market, though. Though Nintendo had prevented the Sega Master System from gaining relevance in America by (metaphorically) staring down curious retailers while rhythmically slapping a tire iron into its open palm, the Genesis' arcade-quality graphics turned a lot of heads. Sega seemed fresh, new, and grown-up – and that last point was a big deal to kids who'd grown up with the NES, but were ready to abandon "babyish" things like Mario games.
Nintendo entered the 16-bit market behind Sega; that was one strike against it. But its entrenched brand also proved to be a mixed blessing when bad press arose from parents who resented the idea of upgrading.
Though people adopted new technology on a regular basis long before the Super Nintendo was thought up, adults were furious at the idea of buying a "new Nintendo" at twice the price. The sales pitch of improved graphics, sound, and new games meant nothing to them. In their minds, crooked Nintendo was pushing a frivolous upgrade that would instantly render their kids' "old Nintendo" obsolete. The SNES's lack of backwards compatibility didn't endear parents to the system, either.
So maybe Wal-Mart Mom asked her parents for a Super Nintendo back in Christmas of 1991, and her parents said no because she already had an NES and plenty of games. As a consequence, all her fond memories of video games belong to the NES era—and she's helpless to re-experience them in a cheap, convenient (legal) way because Nintendo produced about six NES Classic systems. But now we're going in circles. Let's move on before the Tryclyde gobbles its own tail.
I'm not suggesting an SNES Classic won't sell like gangbusters. It'll do just fine. But the "30-to-40 consumer" Nintendo President Reggie Fils-Aime referenced when he talked to Wired about the NES Classic earlier this year isn't going to be nearly as interested or nostalgic as people like you and I—the people who still have their original SNES and several SNES games on the Virtual Console, but would love to have a wee SNES pre-loaded with great games sitting on their coffee table.
Then again, the NES Classic demonstrated Nintendo is very bad at meeting demand for varied audiences. Maybe things are just better this way.
For more retro SNES loveliness, check out our complete guide to the SNES Classic.