You might think it's the best time in the world to be a Nintendo fan. The excellent new Nintendo Switch console just released, and it launched with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, one of the best-reviewed games of all time. Talk about perfection...
... or not. The Switch is great, but only if you're able to get one. And while Nintendo issued a press release saying it sold 906,000 consoles in the U.S. since launch, chances are that if you want one, you're still waiting in line outside of a Best Buy or constantly refreshing Amazon. I have a colleague who tried to buy one from his phone while walking his dog and couldn't fill out his billing address before it sold out.
Maybe, the loyal Nintendo gamer that you are, you'll pass the time waiting for a Switch by playing some timeless Nintendo classics. The NES Classic Edition has been in stores since November. Perhaps they finally built up enough stock so you can buy one.
Wait, what's that? Yes, you heard right, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic Edition, with just one shipment to go before it's gone forever. That will be even more difficult to get than a Switch.
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The eager Nintendo fan has two options: go to eBay or Craiglist and spend well over the MSRP for their hardware, or wait it out for their turn to get the system they want, which could be weeks or even months.
So if you got your system, this is indeed a great time to be a Nintendo fan. Zelda's here, Splatoon 2 is around the corner and Super Mario Odyssey is coming this fall. But if you you're just trying to get a device, well, it really stinks.
In fact, it's all reminiscent of when Nintendo launched its NFC figures, amiibo. Several characters were immediately out of stock and hard to find, and the aftermarket pricing was insane. Surely, some kids who just wanted a Marth amiibo to play Super Smash Bros. for Wii U with were disappointed last holiday. Even now, it's difficult to get the new figures for Breath of the Wild.
Nintendo has an extremely loyal fanbase. They'll wait in the cold and set up browser alerts to get the company's hardware. But people get tired. Some will stop waiting, the way they did for Amiibo, the way they did for NES Classic Edition and now the way they're waiting for the Switch.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is known for his mastery of supply chain management. Sure, you may miss out on an iPhone the day it launches, but you'll be able to order one soon after, whether its from your carrier, a store or Apple directly. Apple makes it easy to feel like a part of something.
The Big N, though, seems like it can't figure out how to make enough of its systems. I often wonder if anyone at that company has heard the phrase "supply chain management" before. Because pulling a product that a ton of people still want with no good reason sounds like nothing is being managed at all.
Yes, eventually everyone who wants a Switch will get one. Patience is a virtue. But amiibo and now the NES Classic Edition are incidents some won't forget, and they may give up on the Switch, or whatever Nintendo releases next to critical acclaim, because the company just makes it too damn hard.
They shipped approximately as many Switch units in March as the PS4 and XBO did in their first month and doubled production going into April. They did commit more units to Japan, but they also outsold the PS4 launch by ~16% there. There is no artificial scarcity, production, or supply issues with the Switch. Nintendo has produced and shipped a completely reasonable number of units, it's just popular.
And hopefully that means more people can get their Switches soon! But when you can't get that, or NES Classic Edition, or amiibo, it kinda stinks. Patience is a virtue. Switches will come around. But the initial experience for amiibo and the fact that they're pulling the NES Classic Edition compounds into a bigger perceived issue.