Nintendo is selling a heck of a lot of NES Classics, its tiny retro Nintendo Entertainment System gadget with built-in games. The company revealed that it has sold more than 1.5 million to date, a figure that probably could’ve been a lot higher — the retro reboot console was a hot holiday seller, and was consistently unavailable despite immense demand.
Even now, it’s hard to get your hands on one. Amazon is sold out except via resellers charging at least double its $60 asking price, and GameStop and Best Buy are likewise showing the micro console as out of stock. On the company’s earnings call earlier this week Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima promised (via GameSpot) that it would be working to alleviate the shortage with increased production capacity; he also apologized to shoppers who couldn’t get their hands on one so far.
The NES Classic has 30 classic titles pre-installed, and ships with a controller that pretty much exactly replicates the original NES controller, albeit with a much shorter cord. The game system takes up about the size of a large hand, and weighs next to nothing, with HDMI-out and USB power for max portability and convenience.
It’s a tremendous success itself, since it’s probably very inexpensive for Nintendo to create and distribute, but the real value is in keeping Nintendo’s brand fresh and renewing the connection between itself and gamers young and old. It’s a nostalgia refresher, reminding people of their connection to NES from their youths, and also introducing the console and its most timeless games and franchises to new generations of players.
Nintendo’s biggest asset is its core, owned games, which include the Mario and Pokémon franchises, among others, and it’s doing an amazing job of not only leveraging those for upcoming titles, but also making the most of its back catalog and the ecosystem available via mobile platforms to renew interest and extend its brand. The end effect is a halo of brand loyalty that’s similar in some ways to what Apple can achieve along its product lines.
The NES Classic’s performance is great news for the Switch: It’s a timely reminder that Nintendo can and always has made games that excel at fun, and that age gracefully. It’s a quiet reminder that an investment in a new Nintendo console will have lasting benefits, and a nice way to also quietly brush the Wii U’s rocky history under the rug. Nintendo’s micro console exercise should also pave the way for future retro reboots, and maybe even some new software targeted at throwback systems, depending on how things go.