Every time Nintendo has stock issues with a popular item, people seem to think that Nintendo is doing it on purpose to drive hype for a product that would otherwise not sell if stock was plentiful. I have been in a number of arguments on this subject and have finally decided to write an article on it.
So why would a notable company like Nintendo do that? Well they don’t. Nintendo is a victim of its own popularity and gamers are victim of it as well. Anything that has a hint of being popular and with supply issues is picked up quickly by scalpers who turn to eBay instantaneously to resell for 2-3 times their original value.
The Nintendo Wii is probably the best example that people use to argue that Nintendo uses scarcity to drive popularity. The Nintendo Wii is objectively the worst console of its generation yet managed to sell 20 million more consoles than its competitors. For two years, the Nintendo was in low quantities yet high demand. You couldn’t walk into a Best Buy to pick one up unless you knew someone who worked there and had them set one aside. If you just had to have one, you needed to go to eBay and pay anywhere from 300 – 400 dollars for a console that retailed for 200.
I know first-hand that these sold for an obscene amount because I sat in line at Target overnight with my parents and a neighborhood kid for one. We ended up getting four total and sold three at 450 a piece which in turn paid for the Wii that I kept. I didn’t have any trouble selling one either, the consoles were sold in November and I made sure that they were in buyer’s hands before Christmas.
Over the next two years I enjoyed the hell out of my Wii and my friends who didn’t have one would come over to my apartment to play it. After a while, I had grown tired of my Wii and decided to sell it with all of my games. I ended up selling it for 600 dollars and bought myself a digital SLR with the funds.
I have since bought another Wii and actually have a 25th anniversary red Wii that I picked up for 30 dollars. Wiis are very common and many people who bought them just to play Wii sports have them sitting on their TV stand collecting dust.
Remember Amiibos? For the past year some Amiibos have been in stock and on the pegs for months while others sell out day one and never see the shelves again. People were buying Ness, MegaMan and Marth specifically to resell or trade at a later time taking the figure out of the hands of people who wanted to walk into a store casually and pick them up.
The situation was so dire that Nintendo finally addressed the issueand reprinted a lot of the rarest Amiibos to the point where they fill bins at Toys R Us. Need a Villager? No problem. Shulk? Got ya covered. Fox? Plenty for everyone.
Even during supply issues, Amiibos were a hit. Selling well over a million units, Nintendo has now cemented the Amiibo in their games and alongside similar items such as Skylanders, Disney Infinity, and Lego Dimensions. Yet people still believe that if Amiibo had plentiful stock at launch, the Amiibos wouldn’t have been successful.
But the major flaw in the argument is that Nintendo never let on that all Amiibos would be super rare. They did mention that it was possible that a specific character might not see a reprint, but you would still be able to buy a card with the character’s info on it. This business model has changed and now there are more Amiibos on the shelves than Wii U games. The only true “rare” Amiibo is the golden Mario which was a Wal-Mart exclusive and available in limited quantities.
People also fail to realize that the majority of Amiibos available for sale are for the Super Smash Brothers game which has already been known to have rabid fans who make other games rare as well.
Devil’s Third is a first party “M” rated game from Nintendo. The game has gotten poor reviews and will probably be in the bargain bin in the UK by the middle of January.
What’s that? You’re in the US and haven’t heard that Devil’s Third is coming out? Well it did come out. December 11th 2015 to be exact. Still interested in getting it? Well too bad, there aren’t anymore. The game came to the United States with so little fanfare that you can’t even buy it on the eShop. When Destructoid went to get their review copy, they found that it was pretty hard to find. With a little digging, they discovered Gamestop had 420 copies in stock. For their entire store line. For reference, there are 4,434 Gamestops in the US. It doesn’t take a math genius to figure out that this game is extremely rare and Nintendo does not want anybody to have this game.
Yet this game is fetching over a hundred dollars on eBay a week after it was discovered to be in extremely limited quantities. People have been tripping over themselves to get their hands on this game even though all reviews suggest that you shouldn’t waste your money. Surely Nintendo is behind this and did it on purpose to get people talking about this game.
You can’t hype a game or a product if people can’t go out and buy it. Even if this was done on purpose, the chances of your friends having this game so you can see if you want to play it are so slim that you were actually better off never hearing of this game. I’m sure if this game was properly advertised in the US (it wasn’t) you would be super pissed that you can’t get go to the store and go buy your own copy. Nintendo would be absolutely nuts to spend money on advertising that the game was coming out and then only ship 1000 copies. The backlash over people unable to get it would drown out the game itself and Nintendo would be struggling to play catch up while gamers give up and play other franchises on other consoles. What happens when you lose customers to competitor who gives them what they want? They don’t come back.
In the examples that I have provided, one could suggest that Nintendo doesn’t use scarcity to drive demand, demand for their products drives scarcity. With the exception of Devi’s Third, my examples are best sellers that couldn’t have possibly been scarce on purpose. You can’t sell 99 million units and call it scarce.
While Nintendo doesn’t bank on scarcity to drive hype, they do release Limited Editions of products that get gobbled up by collectors and when it finally sells out, there’s no chance that Nintendo plans any restock. And while there are rare 3DS and Wii U variants, that doesn’t prevent people from going to Best Buy and getting one of their very own. Limited Editions are for collectors, not regular gamers who like to play games.
So stop shitting on Nintendo; they’re like every other company in the industry and love money. They’re willing to do a lot of things to get their products in the homes of as many people as possible and limiting their stock on purpose does nothing but prevent that from happening.