To this day, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System remains my favourite console of all time, and was released during a period when Nintendo truly were super and were firing on all cylinders. And whilst the console hardware manufacturer may have fallen out of favour in its mainstream appeal (as can be testified by the unmitigated sales flop that was the Wii U?), during the early 90’s however, the company was unquestionably a major industry player as it went head to head against arch rival Sega and its Mega Drive console.
I used to own a Mega Drive, but sold it as soon as the SNES was released in the UK in 1992. And to this day, don’t regret my decision at all – for whilst the Mega Drive had gems such as Sonic The Hedgehog, Strider, Gynoug, and Streets of Rage, and was considered as being the “cooler” console due to Sega’s genius marketing efforts, the SNES however boasted a far more enviable (and higher quality) software library. As a consequence, and to this day, the console boasts some of the greatest games to have ever appeared in the market, with a few choice classics being bundled with the Nintendo Classic Mini: SNES – a pocket-sized version of the iconic console.
Despite the SNES Mini selling out mere hours after pre-orders went live many months ago, and with many retailers placing a limit of just one console per customer, I was still able to legally procure 8 copies of the retro micro console on launch day – with each unit costing me between £70 to £80. Not a bad deal when considering that it comes bundled with 21 games, including classics such as Contra III: The Alien Wars, Final Fantasy VI, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario Kart, Super Metroid, and the previously unreleased Star Fox 2. And whilst many of these games have been widely playable for many years via unofficial emulators, the SNES Mini is an official Nintendo release that represents the gaming equivalent of vinyl.
Despite Nintendo of America president, Reggie Fils-Aimé, promising that there won’t be the same supply issues that dogged last year’s Mini NES release, it’s worth noting that he also promised that fans would be able to “get their hands” on the NES Mini in time for Christmas 2016. And whilst he’s now arguing that the SNES Mini’s production has been “dramatically increased” to satisfy demand, just how much stock can one place upon his assurances when John Lewis’ website struggled to cope after the retailer announced that it would sell Nintendo’s little retro console from 8pm on 27/09/2017. Even on the the SNES Mini’s day of release, many retailers reportedly sold out of their allocated Day One stock in less than half a day, with retailers being unable to guarantee as to when future shipments would be arriving.
All of this leads one to believe that even if Reggie Fils-Aimé has strongly urged consumers “not to over-bid on an SNES Classic on any of the auction sites,” consumers are still better off buying a unit from sites such as Ebay, as they’d at least be guaranteed a SNES Mini in time for Christmas, and not have their hearts broken as a result of Nintendo’s broken promises and inept supply chain.
Demand for the SNES Mini is immense, with auction sites regularly selling units for over twice their RRP. Indeed, I was able to sell 7 consoles for nearly £140 each in less than 24 hours. And whilst some may accuse me of being a “scalper” and for opportunistically ripping off Nintendo’s “fans”, it’s worth bearing in mind that they had the exact same opportunity in being able to democratically secure a unit like I did – even if I did so using a 6 year old iPhone 4s (which I refuse to upgrade) whilst at work. Retailers were only allowing one pre-order unit per customer after all. At the same time, I don’t repeatedly let my customers down – unlike Nintendo who have helped foster and encourage resellers by failing to supply enough units to meet consumer demand. If anyone is to blame therefore, it’s Nintendo for failing to observe the business principle of “supply and demand”, despite having over 30 years of experience within the games market, and failing to put into place a supply chain that can convincingly handle stock logistics. After all, if Apple can do it with their iPhone 8, and Microsoft can do it with their XBox One X, then why can’t Nintendo do it with their SNES Mini (despite having over $4.6 billion in the bank)?
Ultimately, the buying and selling of goods is a fundamental and basic economic function, and retailers aren’t beholden to pricing dictums, and can set their own prices. And if the manufacturer and retailer were to choose to price an item that reflected its true market value and demand, then the incentive to resell on the secondary market would cease to exist. In short, and accounting for the economic principles of supply and demand, the true value of a SNES Mini isn’t £70-80 (as Reggie Fils-Aimé would attest), but is nearly twice as much at around £140, as that is how much people are prepared to pay. At the same time, the fact that I was able to sell 7 in under 24 hours proves to me that there is a lot of demand for the product, and that a lot of people are prepared to pay such an amount – despite what “fans” may think.
When I bought the SNES Mini consoles as shown in the above photo, I assumed all the inventory risk, and also abided by the basic economic principles of supply and demand. At the same time, I merely acted as an “investor” (similar to a stock market trader and homeowner) who is buying an asset in the hope that it appreciates in value. And even if some “fans” may brand me as being “immoral”, I know that I’ve done nothing illegal, and truly believe that they too could have secured a unit for £70-80 if they had expended the necessary effort and time (like I did). And considering that many important business men and managers have Personal Assistants who help with daily tasks, I believe that I too helped carry out an important function when I acted as the intermediary middleman who assumed all the inventory risk, whilst asking to only be compensated a “finders fee” (should the item have risen in value – as it did). Indeed, and by assuming all the risk, I could have been stuck with many unsold SNES Mini units if Nintendo had carried out its promise (which it clearly didn’t).
To conclude, the current MRP of £140 for the SNES Mini only holds true because Nintendo have under-supplied, and because many retailers have chosen to under-price the product relative to fan demand and market forces. It’s these twin factors that have directly led to the reseller market emerging for the SNES Mini in the first place, with me being able to sell 7 units in under 24 hours. And if Nintendo had truly cared about its “fans”, then the company would have made a concerted effort in supplying more units to retail – by which it would not only have satisfied “fan” demand, but would have ensured to have had sufficient SNES Mini units on display for impulse retail shoppers. Alas, with the “fans” refusing to believe this, whereby they continuously look towards resellers as being the fallguy, they only have themselves to blame. For they’re the ones who perpetually support a company that earnestly goes out of its way to provide incredibly poor value for money – as is the case with the under-powered and over-priced Switch, not to mention the price-gouging that occurs with its software and gaming ecosystem. And to think that even after the (seemingly) months of planning, not to mention the stock debacle that was the NES Mini, the company has still failed to satisfyingly deliver on market expectations, just goes to show how little regard the company’s management has for its fans, and how these very same fans would rather blame some unlikely scapegoat then level the problem at their favourite comapny. For if Apple can sort out stock issues regarding their new iPhone 8, and Microsoft can alleviate supply problems for their upcoming XBox One X, then why can’t a company with as much history and as many resources at its disposal as one like Nintendo?
I’m sure that Nintenards will be able to expend the necessary time and energy in performing the mental gymnastics to answer the aforementioned question… But that still won’t change the unarguable fact that I sold 7 units of the SNES Mini on an “auction site”, for nearly twice the RRP, in less than 24 hours.