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So what is Nintendo thinking discontinuing the beloved NES Classic Edition? (update)

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Written by Kamil Arli

According to the Forbes and the Polygon Nintendo is discontinuing the NES Classic Edition and here the possible reasons of it.

Nintendo is discontinuing the NES Classic Edition, a plug-and-play console that became popular with collectors as soon as it launched last fall.

A Nintendo representative confirmed that the last shipments of the NES Classic Editions will hit stores this month. Once that stock dries up, retailers will not receive any additional new consoles.

Throughout April, NOA territories will receive the last shipments of Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition systems for this year. We encourage anyone interested in obtaining this system to check with retail outlets regarding availability. We understand that it has been difficult for many consumers to find a system, and for that we apologize. We have paid close attention to consumer feedback, and we greatly appreciate the incredible level of consumer interest and support for this product.

This was the plan all along, according to Nintendo in a statement to IGN.

 “We did add extra shipments to our original plans”

“NES Classic Edition wasn’t intended to be an ongoing, long-term product. However, due to high demand, we did add extra shipments to our original plans,” it told IGN.

 Those extra shipments never made it any easier to purchase the NES Classic Edition. Prices skyrocketed on reseller websites throughout the hardware’s short life. Any time a retailer received a limited quantity in stock, the entire shipment would sell out in minutes.

Along with the NES Classic Edition systems, Nintendo will also discontinue the NES Classic Controller. The peripheral is sold separately and compatible with both Wii and Wii U as well. It plugs into the Wii Remote to be used for NES Virtual Console games.

 Nintendo managed to sell an impressive 1.5 million units

Considering the difficulty in procuring an NES Classic Edition, Nintendo managed to sell an impressive 1.5 million units as of late January and was increasing production.

Update: The Famicom Classic Edition, the Japanese version of the mini-NES, has also ended production. Yet Nintendo phrased this announcement in an interesting way on its Japanese website:

This product has ended production for now. When production is being resumed, we will tell you on our website.

There’s no telling whether this is a “temporary” discontinuation or a permanent one, but that the company is leaving room open for a possible return is curious.

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So what’s actually going on here?

1. Nintendo Is About To Release The Switch Virtual Console

The idea here is that Nintendo is worried about the NES Classic Edition cannibalizing sales from the per-game Virtual Console, which may be arriving soon on the Switch. While Nintendo has been notoriously prone to fears about cannibalization, this would be sort of a new level for them, and I’m not sure I buy it. I just don’t think they would discontinue a successful product that has 30 NES games when Virtual Console has hundreds of games, not just from the NES but almost every past Nintendo system to date. I can’t see this being a valid reason to pull the product.

Plausibility: 2/10

2. A SNES Classic Edition Is Coming

It goes without saying that Nintendo is probably planning another go at this concept with a SNES Classic Edition given how well the NES performed. But is that’s what’s going on right now? I’m not so sure. It would be really, really rushed to turn around and come out with an SNES Classic when the NES Classic is still selling so well, or if it is coming, they could at least keep selling the NES up until the holiday season when the SNES might launch. Still, though an SNES is probably coming someday, I don’t think that’s what’s happening right now.

Plausibility 3/10

3. Nintendo Is Regrouping For The Holiday

Rather than making a few NES systems and having them sell out instantly every time they’re given to retailers in tiny little chunks, I can see Nintendo maybe wanting to stop for a while and play catch up, preparing for a grand re-release of the NES Classic Edition this holiday, only this time, they’ve taken the time to build up enough stock where it won’t be sold out everywhere all the time with massive production shortages. If people want the system this badly now (and they still do, judging by the reaction to the system being discontinued), they will probably still want to pick one up this holiday, and Nintendo may be altering their schedule to prepare for a big push then, rather than this trickle release right now.

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Plausibility: 9/10

The NES Classic Edition

Nintendo

The NES Classic Edition

4. Nintendo Hates The NES Classic Being Hacked

Given that the NES Classic is a relatively simple piece of technology, hackers have gone to town with the system, allowing it to play many, many more games than it was ever supposed to (including SEGA games). Nintendo hates hackers, more so than most companies, so I’ve heard that they simply are stopping production because they don’t like how the system is being abused. This sounds goofy, but this is Nintendo we’re talking about, a company who greenlit the idea of removing story mode cutscenes from Smash Bros. because people were putting them on YouTube. I’m not going to totally rule it out.

Plausibility: 4/10

5. Nintendo’s Margin On The NES Classic Is Too Slim To Be Worthwhile

Hardware usually has some pretty thin margins for manufacturers, so that’s why you bolster a system by making money from software. But in this case, there is no software with the NES, which includes all its games as part of its appeal. So that means maybe Nintendo simply wasn’t making enough money on the system as it needed to in order to justify continued production. I can maybe buy this, but the problem is that the fix is relatively easy. If there was ever a product that could easily handle a $20 price bump and still sell-out instantly, it’s the NES. The problem is that by simply pulling out of the market and discontinuing the product, Nintendo now leaves distribution at the mercy of scalpers who are selling units for hundreds, thousands of dollars over asking price. If profit was a problem, there was a better solution that simply ceasing production.

Plausibility: 6/10

6. Nintendo Is Simply Getting Bogged Down In Manufacturing

Regardless of whether or not the NES was selling well, the process of making the system may have grown too exhausting for Nintendo to keep up with. I don’t know precisely how their supply chain for the system has been going, but it stands to reason that this is also an era where they’re trying to make as many Switches as possible in order to meet huge demand for that product, so if somehow they end up having to choose between more Switches and more NES Classics because they can only handle managing so much manufacturing, I can see why the NES Classic might have to be shelved, given how vital the Switch is to their future success.

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Plausibility: 8/10

The NES

Nintendo

The NES

7. Nintendo Is Having Rights Issues With Certain NES Games

Nintendo does not own the rights to some of the games that come with the NES Classic Edition, so some have speculated the console may be getting discontinued because of some dispute in that realm. While in theory I could see how this could be an issue, A) I don’t know if Nintendo would make a licensing deal that was going to expire in such a short time period and B) the system is still being sold outside NA for now, so you would expect a total stoppage immediately if there was a serious legal issue. Also, you might be able to just carve out whatever games needed to be cut, replace them with something else, and keep going. I just don’t imagine this is a significant factor in this decision.

Plausibility: 2/10

8. Nintendo Just Wants To Stick With Their Plan

Maybe the simplest explanation is the right one. Nintendo said this was a limited offering from the start. They stretched the limits of what they had planned to make. Now they’re done. It may seem goofy from the outside, but if continuing to focus on the NES Classic takes away from other aspects of their business that must stay on schedule, maybe they’re willing to call it a day, even as the system remains popular. Not sure this is a good idea, but it’s something I can see Nintendo doing.

Plausibility: 6/10

Those are the main reasons I’ve heard, but feel free to suggest your own. My guess? We will see the NES Classic Edition rise again, possibly by Christmas, but don’t hold me (or Nintendo) to that.

About the author

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Kamil Arli

Editor of DigitalReview.co. Digital Media Consultant

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