Nintendo has to get their act together. They need to fix the constant supply issues that have continuously hounded them for the past few years.
Last year, I praised Nintendo’s decision to release the NES Classic. I saw it as a way that they could market their classic games to children who had never played them or to non-gamer adults nostalgic about their childhood. It seemed like the perfect product to bridge the gap between the Wii U and the Switch and provide enough financial cushion for Nintendo to transition seamlessly between console generations. It seemed poised to succeed tremendously.
That never happened.
Instead, the NES Classic was beset by a bevy of supply issues. There were no preorders and consumers who wanted one either had to search for stock in-person or pay a hefty markup on eBay and Amazon (roughly two to three times the miniature console’s $60 MSRP). Neither Nintendo nor consumers escaped the kerfuffle unscathed. Most consumers couldn’t get the product that they wanted and Nintendo was left with an incredibly popular item suffering from extreme scarcity during the heaviest shopping season of the year.
When the Nintendo Switch went live for preorders, it sold out very quickly, leaving many consumers who wished for a console on launch day out of the loop. Switches have remained hard to get for months, leaving companies like GameStop, and their subsidiary ThinkGeek, to fill the void with bundles. They have taken this to the extreme, bundling seemingly mundane items with hard-to-find products, making profit off of consumers desperate for Nintendo’s latest and greatest items. A lack of supply and a surge in demand have led to profits, especially from limited release items like the NES Classic, being gained by resellers instead of Nintendo.
Despite the outrage surrounding the NES Classic’s limited release, it isn’t the first time that Nintendo has disappointed consumers with the release of a new product. The amiibo line has continuously suffered from supply issues, price gouging, and upset consumers since Wave 1 launched in 2014. Amiibo have been in a constant supply shortage, with lesser known characters such as the Fire Emblem series’ Robin selling out almost immediately. It took Nintendo over a year to stock enough Wave 4 amiibo to satiate consumers, by which time the hype had mostly died down for the plastic figurines.
Nintendo’s refusal to bring their supply chains up to a consistent standard is costing them money and causing consumers unneeded amounts of frustration. Their failure to competently bring products to market has damaged their ability to grow market share and has made them (yet again) the laughing stock of the gaming community. If Nintendo is to capitalize on the second chance that the Switch is giving them, they need to iron out the persistent issues that have dogged their supply chain since the release of the original Wii in 2007.
And, supply chain issues it must be.
I don’t, for a second, believe that Nintendo is purposely holding back supply. They aren’t a small company beholden to the guerrilla-marketing that purposeful scarcity would indicate. They have some of the most marketable brands in the gaming industry and it would be foolish for them to hide such an enticing light under the proverbial bushel. Instead, the problem seems to be with their ability to manufacture more supply, an issue that Nintendo needs to figure before it derails their plans for the Switch. Consumers are willing to patiently wait for the latest and greatest in tech, but patience runs thin after extended delays.
While Nintendo’s corporate conservatism is often given as the reasoning for why such small shipments of hardware make their way to shelves, it is not a good excuse. Nintendo isn’t a company adverse to taking risks, they never have been. They have, more often than any other video game company, attempted to zag while others are zigging. After all, lest we forget, the NES was released at a time when video games, as an industry, were considered an obsolete fad, the DS featured two-screens and lacked the graphical capability of its main competitor, and the Wii was a small, non-HD, motion-control focused console in the days of the Cell processor and Reality Engine. They aren’t averse to risk.
Nintendo has never been afraid to challenge the status quo and unless they are as out-of-the-loop as the Internet has made them out to be, there has to be another issue. There is obvious demand for their products and companies don’t underproduce their products and cut into their profits simply for the fun of it. There must be an integral issue with their supply chain that has made acquiring hardware from them in the past three years such an exercise in frustration.
Even Japan, Nintendo’s home country and one of the closest places on the planet to Foxconn, the Switch’s manufacturer, is experiencing crippling shortages exacerbated by high demand and rampant piracy. If they can’t produce enough product to satiate demand in their home country, which is only a boat ride away from their manufacturer, what does that mean about the health of their supply line and their bottom line?
The Switch, NES Classic, and soon-to-be-released SNES Classic are all a great products that deserve to be in the hands of as many gamers, and non-gamers, as possible. They need to take the time to assess why their products keep failing to launch with enough supply and determine a solution to fix the problem. It isn’t enough to participate in proverbial thumb-twiddling while resellers and distributors cut into their profit margins, they need to act before interest dies down in their still fledgling system.
Nintendo is on the verge of another success story not seen since the release of the Wii over a decade ago. They are on the precipice of building something great with the Switch and they can’t let supply issues place such a great bottleneck upon their potential. They’re too good of a company, with too great of potential, to let such prosaic issues derail their ambitions.