Nintendo's Supply Problem

Scalpers Win, Fans Lose.

06 March 2023
by benmagnet 15
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Nintendo has a problem. Granted, Nintendo has quite a few problems, but there is one problem that’s persisted over the years…one that’s been plaguing them since the late 80s and has been a thorn in the side of many. When a new Nintendo product (game or system) hits retailers online or in stores, they seem to vanish just as quickly as they arrived. Resellers and scalpers are jacking up the price, and when you try to buy said product honestly, it seems that no one has what you’re looking for. Nintendo has a supply problem.

The most recent evidence of the Nintendo supply problem came when Metroid Prime Remastered hit store shelves last week on February 22nd. While stores like GameStop had pre-orders of the game for customers, walking into a store and getting a physical copy seemed impossible without the pre-order. Stores were sold out, and people online were saying that retailers only got a handful of copies, leading to the game going for over $100 online. Sure, you could buy the game digitally, but those who want a physical copy were screwed. If you were to search for the game on Amazon, there was no mention of a physical copy even being available; only the digital version. Nintendo’s official website currently says the physical copy is sold out and no longer available. Hopefully this changes after some time passes, but it’s not looking good for Nintendo. The worst part? This has happened multiple times in the past, yet fans keep finding themselves here.

Screenshot taken on February 27th, Physical copy Sold Out
Screenshot taken on February 27th, Physical copy Sold Out

Many a retro fan remembers the Fall and Holiday season of 2016. It was the year when Nintendo gravely misjudged the demand for the NES Classic edition, which was practically more valuable than gold at the time. Scalpers and resellers had a field day with fans who wanted to play NES games on newer TVs. When news broke that Nintendo was discontinuing the system in April 2017, the backlash was severe. As a matter of fact, the uproar was so severe that Nintendo walked back the decision and made more systems in 2018. In an interview with Business Insider, Doug Bowser (before he was Nintendo of America President & CEO) said that “Nintendo does try to have a set plan in place, but when demand ramps up it takes some time to catch up.” Later in the article, he claims that Nintendo, “learned their lesson,” with the NES Classic and made new plans for the SNES Classic. To be fair, the SNES was more readily available, even months after the launch day in North America. While the re-issues of the NES Classic was the right move, it still begs the same question. If Nintendo has learned its lessons from the Classic consoles, why haven’t they implemented the same strategy with games like Metroid Prime Remastered? Also, why can’t Nintendo keep certain items in stock when you have to be a member of their online service just to buy them?

The N64 wireless controller, only for NSO Members, STILL out of stock on 2/27/23
The N64 wireless controller, only for NSO Members, STILL out of stock on 2/27/23

The N64 wireless controller, only for NSO Members, STILL out of stock on 2/27/23 The Nintendo 64 has one of the most iconic controllers ever made. Love it or hate it, there is no denying that when you see that three-pronged controller, you feel something. When Nintendo announced that they would be releasing a wireless N64 controller for the Switch, many wanted it. The catch is that you need to be a member of the Nintendo Switch Online service to snag one. You might think that if you have to be a part of a certain membership (especially a paid membership), getting a controller shouldn’t be a problem. After all, Doug Bowser said that Nintendo learned their lesson with supply issues. Well, sadly, you would be dead wrong, for even over a year after its initial release, the N64 controller is constantly out of stock on Nintendo’s website. There have been a few restock windows here and there, but the controllers are always gone in mere minutes.

While not getting the N64 controllers still annoys many a fan, there is some silver lining to this whole thing. While the supply problems persist on launch day, given time, most items become more widely available. For example, I was able to get a physical copy of Metroid Prime Remastered from my local GameStop. I called ahead of time and they were able to hold a copy for me. I briefly talked to the store clerk, who told me that some of the reasons why the game was delayed were because of the shadow drop and the recent storms. While the surprise release of the game caused fans to jump for joy, retailers were panicking as they immediately had to get orders in. Along with this, Mother Nature had other plans for those living in Southern California. Our recent storms caused delays up the wazoo, thanks to multiple road closures and flooding. Thankfully, all is not lost when it comes to getting a physical copy of the game, but you may have to wait just a little bit longer.

Some eBay Listings of Prime Remastered on 2/28/23
Some eBay Listings of Prime Remastered on 2/28/23

So what can Nintendo do to help relieve these supply issues? An obvious answer would be to overcompensate on launch day, but that brings financial risks. Atari tried making more games than there were systems back in the early 80s, which helped lead to the crash of ‘83. The sad truth is that there is no good answer when it comes to games and hardware. Shipping delays happen and the only time when a hardware shortage is to be expected is when a new console is first released. However, the one unacceptable thing is not being able to buy an N64 controller freely while being a paid member of the service. Nintendo products are hard to find on initial release, as this has happened time and time again. That said, the NES, SNES, and Genesis controllers have been stocked in the store with no issues a month or two after the release. Why it’s so hard to get an N64 one a year plus later still baffles me.

While there are still many problems with Nintendo getting their products into the hands of those who want them, they have learned a few things from their past blunders. For Metroid Prime Remastered, there is no timed discontinuation like with Super Mario 3D All-Stars. In other words, if you can’t get a copy now, you should be able to get one shortly. As far as we know, there are also no plans to take the game down from the eShop.

Getting a physical product to the masses has improved somewhat with a few hiccups along the way, yet the most wanted item on their online service is still constantly out of stock. It feels that when Nintendo makes progress in one area, they take a few steps back in another. All we can do is voice our displeasure with certain things online and hope the situation improves. Hopefully Nintendo gets the hint and becomes more transparent with timing on product restocks, as turning to scalpers and paying overinflated prices is not an answer.

About benmagnet

benmagnet

When Ben isn't writing or hosting Basement Arcade: Pause Menu, or The Fake Nerd Podcast, he's probably playing games or reading about them. When he isn't playing games, he's usually reading, watching a movie, or playing with his cat.

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Comments (15)

Most Upvoted

conangiga

You can still buy Metroid for 38 bucks on Amazon Germany. So if there is a problem with the supply in America then it is an artificial one.

thisboywillbreak

16d ago

Nice feature! I preordered Metroid Prime Remastered through Amazon and the delivery date slipped well into late March. However, it actually arrived on Sunday! So maybe that’s a sign that things are (hopefully) getting better for that title.

I remember really wanting the Collector’s Edition of Skyward Sword and my mom managed to get the store’s last copy. I missed out on the NES Classic, but got a preorder for the SNES Classic. And also got lucky with the Mario and Zelda Game & Watch, though they don’t seem to have a stock problem. Would love one of those N64 controllers if it’s ever a “right time, right place” sort of thing. So, hit or miss.


kuribo

16d ago

I’ve been pretty much 100% digital with Switch but I still acknowledge that Nintendo has a self-imposed problem when it comes physical availability and in some more obscene cases - digital availability.

It’s a consumer unfriendly practice that they’re doing more and more off. Limited availability of things like Super Mario 35 and more specifically Super Mario 3D All-Stars are designed to prey on peoples fear-of-missing-out.

I believe a similar tactic is being used when it comes to Metroid Prime Remastered. They purposefully shadow dropped the game on the eShop with the physical release not due for up to a month later to encourage people to purchase the more lucrative digital version. Coupled with the obvious under supply of the physical version.

Nintendo has been accused of “artificial demand” in the past and to be honest I don’t think that was true back then, but it’s something they definitely appear to be experimenting with now and it doesn’t sit well with me.


aussiemcbucket

15d ago

@benmagnet

You wrote "loose" instead of "lose", in the subheading.


hawk

15d ago

Great article. And yes, I think it's currently one of Nintendo's biggest problems, and one that's stung me over an over again as a Nintendo fan, for Amiibos, controllers, games, and more.

Nintendo needs to simply anticipate demand better. Demand ALWAYS outstrips supply on most Nintendo products. They should also stop saying things that trigger buyer panic like "limited availability" and "for a limited time". That's like asking for scalpers.

But most of all, we as consumers need to always avoid buying from scalpers. It may be hard, but if we do they'll eventually lower their prices to MSRP to recoup their investment.


d_says_hi

15d ago

They should have open preorders, you get it according to where you are on the queue, until demand settles.


I think so as well, it has become part of their strategy to create value with scarcity. This is also why they choose to shut down eShop and online support for their older consoles. It is destructive to the playgrounds many grew up with I think. I don't like this (part of their business) either. You want to be able to boot up your old Wii and connect it to the internet, just like you did as a child. Now these favorite toys are kinda broken when you want to play with them again. A scarcity of good working online home consoles has been created artificially just to push you to buy a new one. I is tempting sometimes but still did not Switch.. :D

Besides this their games are still awesome in many ways of course ^-^

Edited 3 times

conangiga

15d ago

You can still buy Metroid for 38 bucks on Amazon Germany. So if there is a problem with the supply in America then it is an artificial one.


smasher89

15d ago

I agree, and worst part is that even if you lets say pay and preorder from a store to get the game shipped to you (atleast in sweden and for me for a couple of years now), the games rarely arrive on time, and since the releaseday is usually on a friday, that means no game until maybe wednesday the next week at which time people that got it on release already has had time to beat the game.
Getting collectors editions nowadays feels kinda impossible as well, was going for the Xenoblade 3 one, not possible, Bayonetta 1(supposedly not collectors item even if it probably still hasnt restocked), not possible. I feel this is just their strategy to manipulate people into getting the games digitally "creating less demand for physical" in a way to over time get us to only rent the games which should be called out by lawyers imo!


bakfug

15d ago

I think it's easy to vilify a company, but the problem will always be scalpers. If Nintendo makes more, it's just more to scalp until it's to the point where they over ship by a ridiculous amount which isn't feasible or smart.

I also think people would be surprised how ridiculous the manufacturing process is. Most times what companies make is all that is feasible at the time, and unfortunately large companies just can't afford the resources in going back to old products. Do people not question why it takes so long to get things like 64 controllers back up to order? That is literally just how long the process takes, and they are most likely making the largest order size they can, because getting bids on manufacturing and supplies is ridiculous.

Honestly I think most companies do what they can and do a reasonable job. Metroid Prime had the stupidest release possible, but I am confident more copies will show up before long so 🤷‍♂️


thisboywillbreak

15d ago

@conangiga

Not necessarily. US population is quite literally 4x that of Germany. But even if you don’t factor that in, maybe Metroid is more popular here?


kuribo

15d ago

@lionk

As far as I know you can boot up your Wii and connect to the Internet. You can still download purchased games, you just can’t buy anything new.


Channels and streaming services are broken as well as online functionality for a lot of games, even games like Mario Kart, Animal Crossing and Smash Bros. And the disability to expand your games library online. Point is, the Wii experience isn't what it used to be, it is broken down in ways by a lack of support. Without this 'end of console life' mindset the older Nintendo systems could still be getting new games releases every now and then.

Anyway with limited supply this Metroid game might be one of those rare expensive games in time. And when Switch online support gets taken away in the near future retail games like these will get really expensive.

Edited 2 times

dubbie

14d ago

To be fair,Nintendo focused on the digital release of Metroid Prime remastered and probably thought the retail version wouldn't sell so much,at least they already communicated with the fans telling them there will be more copies on stores.

Physical releases are on decline and have been for many years, and Metroid Prime remaster, at least for Nintendo is a game that's difficult to predict how much it would move.

They make their own predictions and everything sometimes it works out sometimes it doesn't. on this case im glad to hear they are restocking and that the game sold out quickly on stores though 😉


That is a fair guess I guess. But there might also be another reason for it. A remake of a legendary game that is immediately sold out after it came out might be a positive sign for plenty consumers or even for the press. It can be tempting for a business to calculate the amount of retail games with this in mind. You can't really sell out with a digital game so the only way to do it is making sure there are not nearly enough retail games. But yeah it is also just a guess. I feel this outcome is probably mostly done for several business reasons rather than that it is a coincidence. Buuut yeah, no it is not really fun to think like this. And yes it is tempting to believe the game you're spending your time with was a complete sell out ; )


huupawel

11d ago

some scalpers are already selling the game (offline) a few dollars less than in the store, because it looks like Nintendo are doing a lot of copies is now even at top 10 charts in many markets (only physical) lol, and currently checked at ebay and is just 5 or 10 dollars more expensive. Looks like scalpers lose at the end.