Let’s Talk About: The NES Classic Has Been Discontinued, But Y Tho…?

So it’s official, the Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition, NES Classic Mini, Nintendo Classic Mini NES Edition, whatever you call it in your local region has officially be discontinued as of last week. It’s a real shame in my opinion, because I know a lot of people who were really excited to get one; it’s a cute little plug and play device, and a great collectors item for fans of the original system. However those people who did want to get their hands on one of these devices, will now be subject to the mercy of scalpers, who have of course put their already ridiculous prices up since this announcement, if they still wish to own one. Though I imagine this will turn a lot of people off.

There are still a few available through Amazon, and GameStop (if you’re lucky), including the Japanese Famicom version, which is essentially the same except for a few different games, and of course the games being in Japanese. What consoles Nintendo still have in stock will be sold out, so while you chances are slim, you may still be able to get hold of one.

Though this announcement came last week, I decided to wait before writing anything, because I wanted to gather more details, and actually be informative, rather than just post another announcement of the device’s production coming to an end. It didn’t take long for people to post angry videos, ranting about the system discontinuing, like it was a personal slight against them, and frankly acting like petulant, spoiled children. It’s rather embarrassing, and I found myself unable to watch a lot of these reactionary video responses to this news, ranging from people raging and actually growling and snarling like animals, to people coming up with some insane conspiracy theories.

From what I’ve seen around, there is a lot to discuss as to why Nintendo did cancel the device, and I want to explore some of those reasons.

So without further ado, let us play!

The NES Classic Was Always Going To Be A Limited Release

I’ve talked about this a few times since the system was first announced, I was always under the impression that the NES Classic was meant to be a limited product, either as a collectors item, or more of an experiment. It was one of the reasons it bothered me when people complained about Nintendo short stocking the system. It’s pretty clear now that the NES Mini has been discontinued, that it was not short stocked for the sake of driving up demand, seeing as they aren’t even continuing to produce it. So it seems logical to assume that unless there is another entry on this list that makes better sense, that this was simply never meant to be an ongoing thing, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

You might be bitter that you didn’t get your hands on one, but them’s the breaks when it comes to limited products. I don’t see people complaining to this extent, when collectors edition games and consoles are produced in limited quantity. We can’t all have a Halo themed Xbox 360, a Legend of Zelda themed 3DS, or a Pikachu themed Nintendo 64. Same goes for the NES Classic Mini.

This may sound hollow coming from someone who does have one, but if I were unable to get one, sure, I would be upset, but I wouldn’t be angry at Nintendo for only making a limited batch. That’s just silly.

The NES Mini Was A Stop Gap

I’ve only seen a few people talking about this, but it seems as good a reason as any: Nintendo simply had nothing to sell for Christmas 2016.

The Switch, which they had originally wanted out by Christmas, was delayed until March, and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild along with it. Aside from that, there were no other big game launches for the Wii U or the 3DS in that period, meaning that Nintendo were without a Christmas hit.

Because of production scheduling and planning, it would have been obvious to Nintendo probably around a year in advance, that there would be nothing to launch over the Christmas period, so they went with this easy to produce Mini NES, something that struck all the right nostalgic chords, and was likely to be a hit. They put as many factories as they could spare into producing the Mini NES, to have them ready and shipped before Christmas.

Now that the Switch is out, they don’t need it, and all production of the NES Mini is being halted and the factories refit for production of the Nintendo Switch, especially now that Nintendo doubled it’s production order. It makes sense that Nintendo would drop some of the auxiliary productions to better support the Switch.

Hacking

It didn’t take long after the release of the NES Classic Mini, before people found a way to load more games onto the system, and even rewrite the system entirely. No doubt this annoyed Nintendo, and the discontinuing of the NES Classic Mini may very well be a response to that.

While I can understand why some people might see it as Nintendo being childish or vindictive, if this were the case I would have to stand behind Nintendo in their decision. At the end of the day, their system isn’t secure, and this looks bad for the company. Sure the device would get hacked eventually, but it was easier than it should have been. Not only that but it’s being used to play pirated Nintendo games. Why would they bother releasing a NES Classic II, if people can pirate games onto the first?

So it’s back to the drawing board.

While I concede that it is entirely up to the discretion of the consumer to do what they choose with a product they have purchased, within the realms of the law, if Nintendo feel like these people are ruining the spirit of what they have attempted to do with this nostalgic plug and play system, it’s entirely their prerogative to stop producing it.

It’s that simple.

Furthermore, the people who completely gut the things to insert a Raspberry Pi… yeah, it really doesn’t surprise me that Nintendo are taking a degree of offense to this. I personally have a huge problem with people gutting working retro games systems, and while this is a new system, the same applies because of it’s limited nature. These are relics of gaming, systems they aren’t making any more of, it pains me to see them being repurposed for the retro-hipster crowed to say their entertainment system is in an authentic NES shell. If the system is beyond repair, fine. However, we should at least be trying to keep as many of these systems running as we possibly can. This is our cultural history as gamers, let’s protect it, and not submit our past to fashionable destruction.

New Mini System

Another popular rumour was that Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic Mini is because they are preparing early for a new Mini system, that would be released for Christmas season 2017.

The first version of this I heard about was for a GameBoy Classic Mini, but I really don’t think this would be the case. To begin with a mini Gameboy would still have to be around the same size as the Gameboy Pocket, as any smaller would result in the reduction of the screen size, which is already small. The only other option would be to turn the system on it’s side like the Gameboy Micro, but then it’s not a classic look and feel system. A modern system would require a higher quality screen than what was on the original GameBoy, with a decent backlight and something that was free of the known issues that the GameBoy LCD screens suffered from, meaning that we are looking at a more modern screen, which will push the price of the device up, compared to the NES.

However, if it were a plug and play system, that connects to a TV, then we would be subject to enormous pixels on our modern large TVs due to the GameBoy’s tiny resolution, and in black and white/greyscale or green and brown no less, compared to the NES’ colorful pallet. All in all, it would make for a jarring and not a particularly pleasant gaming experience.

If anything, a more likely candidate, would be the SNES, and wouldn’t you know it, Eurogamer knows a guy who has an uncle who works for Nintendo, and they told them that Nintendo would be making a Mini SNES.

People who have followed me for some time know my thoughts about Eurogamer. I find them about as trustworthy as a long, windowed corridor in a Resident Evil game, or a large chest in an empty dungeon room. They claim that their source inside Nintendo has confirmed that a SNES Classic Mini is in the works, and their factories being prepared for a Christmas 2017 release. Same story as above, except with the added bonus of guarantee from the same people who stated that Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild was not going to be a launch title for the Switch.

Anyway abject mockery of these charlatans aside, the SNES was probably the better system to lie about, as it is far more likely that if Nintendo does at some point in the future decide to miniaturise another one of their systems, then it would probably be a home console rather than a hand held, and the SNES is the next in line, as well as a fan favourite.

That said, I think both are unlikely for Christmas 2017 for one reason. In quarter three of 2017, Nintendo will be relaunching their Virtual Console on Nintendo Switch as part of a subscription service, which will feature games from the NES and SNES. Why in their right minds would Nintendo also produce and promote a competing product? In a crucial time for the Nintendo Online Service, people would be far more likely to put off spending the money on the subscription to get a cool collectible device, preloaded with many of the games that they would likely want to get via the Virtual Console, especially knowing how difficult it was to get hold of the NES version.

It seems highly counter intuitive for Nintendo to step on their own toes this way. What Eurogamer have gone and done though, is set themselves up early saying that it will be a SNES Classic Mini, then if it comes out they can claim they reported on it first, however if there’s no mention of it by around November, they can start posting articles about how Nintendo have changed their mind about the system, putting the onus on Nintendo and saving face about making up a story for clicks. And don’t you worry, they will milk this for clicks.

The Virtual Console

This is more a combination of the above hypotheses, but I don’t think it holds up all that well either. When the NES Classic Mini was first announced I mentioned that this looked like a fun system, but I wish there were something more to it, the fact that you couldn’t add more games was a little disappointing. I’ve since changed my mind on this matter.

So, what if this NES Classic was being discontinued for them to release the NEW NES Classic. A better device that allows you to add more games via an internet connection, or with small 3DS like cards that are inserted into the Cartridge slot. Essentially a Virtual Console console.

While this certainly sounds like an excellent device, we’ve already discussed why I don’t think this will happen. The Nintendo Switch will be receiving the Virtual Console towards the end of this year, so it seems rather unlikely that they would release a system that would be in direct competition with their online service. Furthermore, Nintendo have already talked about how the 3DS and the Wii U splits the development and consumer bases for the systems. The point of the Switch is to be both, and the gain the combined sales of a home console and portable. Whether or not it will succeed remains to be seen, but the last thing that Nintendo want to do is to create another split between retro and modern games. While I’m not suggesting that there are any gamers who intend to buy a Switch only for the Virtual Console, the same is not true of the reverse, and I believe it’s a real possibility that gamers of an older generation, may put off buying a Switch, if they can get the nostalgic games they love elsewhere and cheaper.

Just as above, it seems unlikely to me that Nintendo would actively compete with themselves by releasing a more advanced version of an NES or even an SNES Classic Edition.

 Nintendo’s Statement

This may sound crazy, because I know how fun it must be for people to come to the most pessimistic and uncharitable conclusions about how Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic just to spite you personally, but how about we dump all the conspiracies and the wanton hatred, and just see what Nintendo themselves have to say about the discontinuation of the NES Classic, and see if any of these theories seem to fit in with their own statements.

Throughout April, NOA territories will receive the last shipments of Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition systems for this year. We encourage anyone interested in obtaining this system to check with retail outlets regarding availability. We understand that it has been difficult for many consumers to find a system, and for that we apologize. We have paid close attention to consumer feedback, and we greatly appreciate the incredible level of consumer interest and support for this product.

In an additional statement to IGN, a Nintendo representative also stated:

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.

It’s clear from that second statement this this was never meant to be an ongoing production, and judging by the time of release, and the fact that Nintendo had nothing for Christmas 2016, this this was merely meant as a stop gap, and nothing more.

However, a few people have asked, if Nintendo claim to have heard customer feedback, why not just produce more?

The simple answer is because it’s not on the schedule.

They’ve already produced more than they were planning to, and they need to focus on other products now, such as the Switch. It makes perfect business sense to focus on a product that they can sell for $300 (US) compared to the NES Mini which they are only selling for $60 (US). Furthermore, it’s not easy to change plans on a whim when it comes to production scheduling, not to mention that due to the hacking, it’s possible that Nintendo want to revise their system, before future production continues. This also makes sense conconsidering the line about customer feedback. Just because they listened to feedback, doesn’t mean they can fix the complaints in a day, but instead will take that feedback into consideration the next time they try something like this. Possibly making it a more long term thing.

Ultimately though, I can’t answer. Maybe there isn’t a simple black and white answer, but instead a mish mash of different elements from these different theories. So when I see comments like this…

I wonder….. How can nintendo continue this way? They have shareholders. Why arent they furious that nintendo cannot do anything right? I’m so mad right now, I just expected these to show up in a store one day……. Nintendo Classic: Failure. Nintendo Switch: Failing. Nintendo WiiU: Failure. What a joke. Nintendo fans are nearly as desperate as apple fans to throw money at their unhealthy obsessions. The difference? Apple doesn’t assemble iphones in a one room apartment in tokyo…

…I can’t help but laugh. The Nintendo Classic was not a failure, and the decision to discontinue it for now, is not an indication that it’ll never come back, as the statement said: “last shipments of… NES Classic Edition systems for this year“, not forever, just this year. And no, this also isn’t evidence of flagrant profiteering from driving up demand. It just means Nintendo are focusing on their primary project, the Switch and placing it as a priority ahead of secondary projects.

The Switch is far from failing, and anyone who thinks it is, is ignorant, willful or otherwise. The Switch has sold well over 2.4million units, and there are still many preorders that haven’t been fulfilled. When the next rush of units come into stock, expect that number to double easily, and that’ll be long before Christmas and Mario Odyssey.

I find it interesting though, that someone with such a low opinion of Nintendo and their fans, even so much as characterising the NES Classic craze as an “unhealthy obsession”, would be so mad about not being able to get hold of one. Me thinks someone is just bitter.

I’ll be keeping an eye on the news regarding future update of the NES Classic, or any other mini system that might hit the shelves, so keep an eye out and I’ll keep you as informed as I can, while at the same time try to inject a little bit of rationality and defuse some of the nonsense.

Peace and High Scores.

  • Kyle Yager

    Meh. The whole thing left me frustrated with them. Sure, they don’t -have- to make more if they’d only wanted to do it as an experiment or limited time thing.

    That said, it seems like an odd choice considered how well received it was and how well it sold. I guess it ultimately doesn’t matter how I think as I’m not in any hurry to go back to them either way (outside a way to get some Metroid games I missed on the first pass).

    • Counter point: The Fallout 4 Deluxe Pip-boy Edition sold out within a couple of hours of it being put up for preorder. By that logic, why aren’t people pissed or frustrated at Bethesda for not making more when they realised how popular it was? If this attitude doesn’t cross over to other platforms, other developers and other manufacturers, then there is a double standard in your thinking.

      The second comment leads me to believe that you didn’t read the whole article because as stated:

      “However, a few people have asked, if Nintendo claim to have heard customer feedback, why not just produce more?

      The simple answer is because it’s not on the schedule.

      They’ve already produced more than they were planning to, and they need to focus on other products now, such as the Switch. It makes perfect business sense to focus on a product that they can sell for $300 (US) compared to the NES Mini which they are only selling for $60 (US).”

      When you submit a manufacturing schedule, it’s not easy to just come along and change that schedule, especially when you’ve made the promise to support the Switch by producing DOUBLE the number of units you promised in the beginning. They already overshot the NES production stop date. However, people don’t care about how they made more than they intended, or that they sold them for longer than was scheduled, all that matters is that THEY didn’t get one.