Folks, we’ve been played again.
I wanted an NES Classic last year. It looked like Nintendo doing two things that I thought they couldn’t do – They produced a console that people wanted, and they acknowledged and appreciated their history. The NES Classic seemed perfect, really. Sixty dollars, twenty games, compact, and easy to use. This would have been good for anybody – Casual players who just wanted something easy to access, devoted fans who wanted to give money for their favorite classic games, parents with young kids who were just starting out with video games, and I could think of several more situations where a product like this would be valuable. This should have been a huge hit, and by all counts, it seemed to be.
I tried to get an NES Classic last year. I didn’t get one. A lot of people tried to get an NES Classic last year, and didn’t get one. Many of those people got angry. I feel like I got detached. Not enough consoles were made to meet demand, and the ones that were were quickly snapped up by scalpers and collectors looking to flip the console for more money come the holiday season. After the controversy surrounding the launch, Nintendo promptly stopped manufacturing and selling the console. EBay listings for the NES Classic are still around three to four times as much as the MSRP at launch at the least. The publicity around the NES Classic was horrible.
Then, Nintendo had the hubris to do it to us again. They announced a sequel, a Super NES Classic, featuring a release of the previously unreleased Star Fox 2, two controllers right out of the box, and, according to Nintendo, none of the dirt that came along with the NES Classic.
But here we are, two days after pre-orders opened, and who could’ve guessed that All Of The Dirt That Came Along With The NES Classic Is Still There! Shortages! Pre-order failures! Resale of pre-orders at inflated prices!
My issue here is less that it’s happening at all, and more that it’s happening again and people are falling for it again.
For people my age, Nintendo first seemed to embrace its past in around 2006, when they finally accepted that they could, indeed, sell their best games to players at a slightly raised price. This became the virtual console on the Nintendo Wii, a system that I probably pumped over $150 into between like 2006 and 2009. For other kids during that era (I’ll call it the Bush era, for lack of a better term), Nintendo used that process to get us interested in the classics. These two recent miniature consoles looked like a natural progression of the same ideal.
If I could go in to a store in October or whenever it comes out and just buy one right off of the shelf, I probably would. Since I don’t think that it’s possible, I’ll have to find a different way to enjoy them. Maybe I’ll spend part of that eighty dollars on one of them high quality USB controllers and figure out emulation, or maybe I’ll drop some money at one of the independent stores I’m lucky enough to have in my community, or maybe I’ll drop it on independent creators on itch.io making new games inspired by the games on the console I couldn’t get. It’s getting to be far too expensive to properly support this, so I don’t intend to.
The ROMs on this console can be obtained for free online. I assume that anyone who went through a middle school computer lab class learned this around the same way and time that I did. Nintendo knows this, and they may well be guilty of doing this and selling it to you in the past. I still support the idea of having a SNES Classic, and if I can obtain a game legally from the creator or publisher, I’ll do that. However, when the processes of selling these games are exploitative or inaccessible, I’ll turn away, and that’s what I plan to do here.
I love classic games, and I hope to see more people come into the fold with them as we move further away from the games that made up Nintendo’s original fortune. If executed properly, the NES and SNES Classic would have been perfect for this, an easy way for anyone to access great old games without having to go through ROM sites and figuring out how to work emulators. The original Wii virtual console, which I came into contact with about ten years ago, introduced me to some of my favorite games ever right when I found an interest in game history. I bought my first virtual console game in January 2007, and I bought an original NES in June of that year. There is no coincidence there.
Nintendo had the chance to give that to another generation of players, and they blew it.
And here I am, forced to remember the words of a man whose name apparently defines the era of my youth –