When Nintendo announced the NES Classic Edition last year, fans salivated at the thought of top-notch emulation for 30 classic titles, with the potential to add more games once modders took the machine apart to see what it could really do. Then, when Nintendo said it was going to ship more systems in the wake of overwhelming demand that the company, whose product sales projection department is apparently staffed by 19th-century employees who still think the real money is in playing cards, it only did enough to keep the eBay markup down to “just” two to three times the base system price.
After all that, once Nintendo announced it was canceling the NES Classic despite selling more of them in six months than it had managed to ship of its unwanted Wii U, prices shot up on eBay. And scalpers learned something very, very useful: Nintendo, thanks to utter mismanagement and a willingness to lie to its customers, could make them a whole heap of money.
Already, the new Super NES Classic Edition, which was just announced yesterday, is selling out for “guaranteed” preorders from online retailers at prices as high as $ 389, Ars Technica reports (the median price is just $ 199, which I suppose is something). Scalpers have been playing other tricks, including one in the UK which listed the system at $ 249, then “reduced” the price to $ 199 to get a “20% off” badge from eBay.
Now, I can’t officially recommend game emulation. While emulation is legal, ROM dumping likely isn’t, and Nintendo has made it clear it views this activity as piracy. But I’m not backing down one iota from what I said when Nintendo screwed over would-be NES Classic Edition owners earlier this year. If you happen to be wandering through Best Buy or GameStop and find a console sitting on a store shelf, I couldn’t blame you for snapping it up. But otherwise, sit out the hype cycle this time around.
Buy an original SNES or repair one. Buy a third-party console. Buy the games you want through Nintendo’s Virtual Console service. But when Nintendo says they’re absolutely pinkie-swearing that availability will be better this time around, as far as I’m concerned, the company’s word is worthless.
And before you call me cynical or bitter or whatever accurate-but-completely-irrelevant adjective you’re going to come up with, consider this: Nintendo swore that the Wii U was going to remain in production in 2016. It didn’t. And given the long lead times involved in contract manufacturing, I guarantee you Nintendo knew that months in advance. Nintendo said it would manufacture enough NES Classics to fill demand. It had no intention of doing so. And now, the company says it will make double-extra-sure to fill all the orders for the SNES Classic Edition.
You want to believe them? That’s your business. My point isn’t Nintendo, specifically, has a lying problem. My point is that companies in general lie to customers all the time, and they rarely suffer consequences from doing so. So the least we can do is occasionally remind you that the present you might like to find under your tree could run you two to four times as much as Nintendo said it would cost. Because multi-billion dollar corporations find lying convenient, and consumers don’t care enough to punish them for it.