I knew the NES Classic would be difficult to find—but not this hard. Super Mario Bros. 3 will have to wait another day.
The truth is I wasn’t anticipating trying to find the NES Classic this morning. I figured I’d wait it out and get one closer to the holidays —maybe online or by waltzing into Walmart. But that mindset is just plain naive.
If you think smartphones are difficult to find at launch, you haven’t tried getting a Nintendo console on launch day. I barely succeeded in getting a Wii when it launched in 2006.
While heading to work this morning, I got a call from TechnoBuffalo’s Executive Editor Todd Haselton asking if I wanted to try finding the NES Classic at a nearby store. I was up for the adventure so we went right over to Target at the Irvine Spectrum in Orange County, California.
It was about 20 minutes before the store opened at 8 a.m., and the line was already about 40 people deep. That wasn’t a good sign. We figured that, with some luck, the store might have enough units even though we were pretty far back in line, which was growing with every passing minute.
By the time 7:50 a.m. hit, a Target employee came outside and started handing people little green pieces of paper. One by one, the people in front of us received a ticket, guaranteeing them the NES Classic.
We weren’t so lucky.
This particular location only had about 30 units, not nearly enough for the crowd that had gathered outside the store. The same Target employee announced that although units were spoken for at this particular location, another Target about ten minutes away had many more. So that’s where we went.
When we got there, the store was already open, so we made a mad dash inside, where dozens of people were lined up at the check-out stands. After about ten minutes of hushed anticipation, the last unit was sold—and we once again came up empty-handed.
And we weren’t the only ones bouncing around from store to store. A guy behind us said he checked Walmart and a few other stores around the area with no luck. Another woman said she got up extra early to get the NES Classic but came up short. Many other disappointed customers were also turned away.
We checked a nearby Gamestop that was opening at 10 a.m., but there were around 40-50 people waiting, so chances were slim there’d be enough units.
There was plenty of demand but very low supply—and that sucks for people who have been waiting months to get their hands on the mini-console. Sure, you can go on eBay where the Classic is marked up by several hundred dollars, but paying upwards of $500 for an emulator is a bit extreme.
Line for NES Classic at Target pic.twitter.com/pYOtBn2wgj
— Todd Haselton (@robotodd) November 11, 2016
Low supply, astronomical demand
What’s funny—or sad—is that the NES Classic is just a tiny Linux computer—although it’s more powerful than it looks. Not helping matters was the lack of a pre-order campaign, which meant consumers had to go to stores and hope for the best. Consumers like me, who left disappointed.
All this bother for games you can easily play on your computer with the help of an emulator. But that’s the power of nostalgia.
Cram 30 classic games into a small plastic enclosure and people will go wild (myself included). Luckily, there will be more units over the coming weeks, according to a statement from Nintendo provided to TechnoBuffalo. But before the busy holiday season? Who knows.
Joey Davidson, TechnoBuffalo’s head of gaming, brought up a question about artificial scarcity. After traveling from store to store all morning, one has to wonder how it’s possible Nintendo wasn’t able to make more in time for launch, especially when the NES Classic was announced months ago.
Unless Amazon has units in stock today, I’ll probably continue to bounce from store to store, in search of an experience I enjoyed growing up. I can easily download OpenEmu for Mac or something similar for Windows. But where’s the fun in that?