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- A Story About My Uncle
Everywhere I look, I see stories of disappointed fans who went all over town looking for an NES Classic and couldn't find one, be it right at launch or during this increasingly mad holiday shopping season. People sought out the chance to hand Nintendo some money in return for warm, fuzzy nostalgia; but all they got was cold, empty reminders that they will die alone.
This has sadly become par for Nintendo's course — a course more drab and less friendly than any Mario Golf game would have you imagine. Any new amiibo faces shortages at launch, and it's not because 20 million people are running out to buy them. No, we later find out that some stores get one, maybe two of a given figure and that's that until days or weeks later. The same thing is, by no coincidence, happening with NES Classic.
Nintendo could be excused for not having enough of the original Wii in stock, because that thing's launch window success surprised pretty much everyone, especially since it followed the market dud GameCube. But when the pendulum swung the other way and Nintendo had a rough time getting Wii-U into homes, the company switched into an ultra-protective mode — one that's understandable from a pure business standpoint, but sure doesn't make customers feel appreciated.
but coming away empty-handed."
For launch, Nintendo has said it plans to ship 100,000 fewer Switch units than it did for Wii-U. Okay, Wii-U had more units shipped than were necessary, but its disappointing launch is the fault of Nintendo's marketing and the system's thin software lineup. Though there are still several key unknowns about the Switch, we're a lot clearer on what it is and what it's for than we were with Wii-U. We're probably not going to all know a guy who thought it was just an overpriced tablet accessory for an existing system.
Is Nintendo playing it safe by cutting the shipment numbers? Cutting costs (in this case, the cost of possibly producing too many consoles) in return for lower risk of launch failure? I guess I can understand that, in a world where everyone is saying a Switch failure means the death of Nintendo as we know it. But maybe — I say from my sofa — maybe Nintendo should stop being Nintendo as we know it. Maybe it's time to take lessons from Nintendo as we knew it.
Remember Nintendo? The company that, despite being routinely outclassed in hardware, became so synonymous with video games that we all called gaming as a hobby "playing Nintendo" for like a decade? Those guys?
I got good feelings from that company, and while I don't have access to Nintendo's financial data of 20+ years ago, I feel confident that none of us were thinking the next Nintendo console might be the last. Lame as "good feelings" might sound, any marketing pro will tell you that a positive image quite often translates to cash (or at least reduces the barriers your product has to break).
Most of us didn't feel burned when we looked back on our decision to buy the under-supported GameCube, because we had a positive image of Nintendo as a whole.
Game systems always had their exclusives and perks, but Nintendo — perhaps because games were long considered toys and perhaps because I'm looking back with the fond memories of a teenager — always felt like a member of the family. We all fell for at least one BS story from a kid who had "an uncle who works for Nintendo" because that's the kind of company Nintendo seemed to be: a company that employs uncles.
But now, that bunch of uncles is acting less like a parent's brother and more like the cheap neighbor we never talk to and puts "no candy" signs on the door every Halloween. In fact I'd now venture to say that none of our uncles work for Nintendo. Well I want my uncle back and I want some candy. I will gladly pay Nintendo for both.
A shortage might be good for a console manufacturer's own pocketbook by ensuring their production costs stay near the minimum and demand can be forced to remain higher, but I feel like neglecting the human element is a bad move. Think about how that feels. Nintendo shipped so few NES Classic units and didn't take pre-orders, so around the country there were Heaven-knows-how-many people who waited in line, possibly for several hours, only to be turned away.
When a company makes it so damn hard to remain a loyal fan… is anyone truly surprised when those loyal fans disappear? Should we be all that shocked that Nintendo's last console was an embarrassingly bad financial flop?
There's comfort in reliability. The easiest, most comfortable things in life are the things we can count on — the things of which we know exactly what to expect. Heartless consumerism and treating people like dirt is what I expect of Sony and Microsoft, because that's what built those evil corporations up in the first place, but Nintendo? No, not you guys, too.
That's one of the reasons Nintendo's mascots and franchises endure the decades where others flail and flounder. We see Uncle Mario and we feel comfortable. He reminds us, lest we doubt, that it's-a him: Mario!
To my former uncles: don't leave customers out in the cold (perhaps literally) this March. You don't want that. Your customers don't want that. No one wants that. You burned customers with amiibo shortages, burned them again with intentional NES Classic shortages, so please, don't pull that crap again. To some, it might increase their hot desire for your new system, sure. But to others? Guys like me? We're just getting tired of how much work it takes to give you money — how much work it takes to even like you. You make life easier for us, the customers, and I'd bet you'll be surprised at the positive results.