Well, it was fun while it lasted. The NES Classic Edition (it went by several names, but you know what I mean) was the must-have item of the holidays and pretty much ever since, owing to short supply of the compact retro gaming console. And Nintendo just confirmed that it was indeed ending production of the device in Europe, the last region they were still officially available.
A Nintendo representative told Eurogamer that the company is “no longer manufacturing the Nintendo Classic Mini.” This was previously confirmed for the U.S. and Japan, but there was a glimmer of hope that it might, for some strange reason, live on in Europe. It was not to be.
If you’re anything like the other 7 billion people on this planet, you’re probably wondering why Nintendo would voluntarily stop printing money. This thing, after all, was a cheap Linux box running games that came out 30 years ago, and people were paying multiples of the reasonable $60 retail price.
It’s kind of hard to say — Nintendo has done some very strange things in its time, and has made some very questionable decisions, so there’s no guarantee this one is any different. But if you think about it, they got everything they wanted out of this, and more.
The NES Classic was arguably always meant to be nothing more than a snack. Nintendo couldn’t push the launch of the Switch to before the holidays (even March was a stretch given the lack of games and features), but the idea of having the walking-dead Wii U as its only offering for this major buying season was unthinkable.
So to bridge the gap — and keep people excited about Mario, Link and everyone else — Nintendo put out the Classic. It would tide people over until the Switch launch, and whet their appetite for the NES titles that would be offered later on the inevitable Virtual Console.
They seem to not have predicted two things: the popularity of the device and the speed at which it would be hacked. The latter, it must be said, largely depended on the former.
But the NES Classic was good — very good — and it struck a chord with consumers. You couldn’t find one for love or money, unless you wanted to pay five times the sticker price. Hackers also soon found it was also relatively easy to add games to, making it a target not just for nostalgia-seekers but also serious retro gamers.
Nintendo likely didn’t plan on this level of demand, but in the end, perhaps wisely, decided to “leave them wanting more,” as the saying goes. They could have made and sold five or 10 million of the things, but decided not to. They proved that people still love Nintendo and want to buy Nintendo products, and that was enough.
Not only that, but the ball is still in their court. Could we see another version of the Classic appear later this year packed with sports games or RPGs? Or perhaps, as many earnestly hope, an SNES classic? It’s up to Nintendo, and they are, as always, infuriatingly uncommunicative.
We may have to be satisfied with the fact that the NES Classic happened at all. Nintendo has us wrapped around its finger — again — and that’s just where it wants us.