Nintendo and the White Whale

2014 has been a breakthrough year for Nintendo. They posted a 193 million dollar loss in 2013 only to come back in 2014 314 million dollar PROFIT. Those who thought Nintendo would exit the hardware market and lease out their precious IP to Sony and Microsoft were silent. 2015 will continue this trend with the release of new Legend of Zelda and Star Fox titles.

Nintendo has listened to its customers and the internet and have pivoted back into a company that appears to know what they’re doing. The Wii U now has desirable games like Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. Wii U to keep the console relevant. But that isn’t to say it’s not all peaches and cream for Nintendo. They still have a console that is light-years (technology wise) from Xbox One and Playstation 4. Plus the lack of third party support which for any other company would be a death knell for a console.

Yet Nintendo continues to be the popular household name. My grandparents still call any game system a “Nintendo” and anything with their logo is considered valuable. Which brings me to the point of the article: Nintendo cannot keep anything popular in stock. From Amiibos to Zelda, Nintendo has appeared to drop the ball on delivering desirable products to the masses without having them being scarce as gold.

The first example is the Amiibos. They’re little figurines of Nintendo characters like Link, Mario and Yoshi that have built in NFC chips enabling the user to interact with a specific game. Similar to Skylanders and Disney’s Infinity franchise, Nintendo has thrown its hat into the ring to capitalize on the market and utilize the NFC functionality of the Wii U Gamepad. Of course there are some characters that are popular than others and Nintendo has failed to anticipate demand of these 12 dollar figures. In comes the secondary market. The most popular Amiibos are going on eBay for 3-4 times the original retail price. Compound that with the rumors that Nintendo will discontinue the less popular Amiibos and the prices will continue to rise.

If Amiibos aren’t your thing and you want to collect just games, don’t worry, Nintendo has a white whale to suit your needs. Two weeks ago in a sneak press release, Nintendo announced a limited edition Majora’s Mask 3D bundle that included a Skull Kid figurine that would be up for pre-order for 40 dollars. Within 2 hours, the item had been sold out on Amazon and Gamestop. Some members of the popular deal site “Slickdeals” bragged that they were able to secure up to 10 copies of the game. I was able to get one by going directly to Gamestop and pre-ordering the more expensive “Ultimate Limited Edition Bundle” which included a hardbound strategy guide for an extra 35 dollars. If you were unlucky to get that bundle, you’re not alone: many collectors and fans were left out only to see the item up for sale on eBay shortly after for as high as 240, but only selling for about 100 dollars. Now the prices have stabilized and you can get one for about $150


To add insult to injury, the limited edition Majora’s Mask New 3Ds XL sold out within 15 minutes online and about an hour in store. About 5 hours later, Best Buy listed the console and it sold out in only 1 hour. Missed out on it? Not to worry; it’s currently on eBay for 340+. Well over its suggested retail price of $199.99. Needless to say, there has been some uproar among fans. Amazon currently has a listing for the console and the user rating is hovering at 1.5 stars with reviews focusing more on their beef with scalpers, not the console itself.

Best Buy has at least taken a stance against scalpers by going back and cancelling orders of 2 or more. This helps a little bit, but it also stings people looking to purchase for friends and family. I recently had my order cancelled because I ordered one for myself and one for a friend. I now have to hope that Best Buy will restock the current cancelled orders or wait for Nintendo to pull through and make more consoles to meet demand.

It’s not all the scalpers’ fault, however. The items being posted on eBay are selling proving there is a demand for these consoles that exceeds the MSRP. I recently spoke to a co-worker that stated she wouldn’t hesitate to drop $350 to get the console. The true fans have money to burn it seems, and they’ll stop at nothing to get their beloved item.

We also have to focus the blame on Nintendo. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of Nintendo. I have an expansive video game collection of mostly Nintendo console games. I sold my Playstation 2 so I would have enough money to purchase a Gamecube. I waited overnight in the cold for a Wii with my parents. Nintendo is notorious for failing to put a finger on the pulse of what will sell at what won’t. The Wii was a surprise success. It was sold out for 2 years and if you weren’t lucky to get one fresh off the truck, you would have to be prepared to spend over 400 dollars for one. Nintendo isn’t without its failures though; in 1994 they released the Virtual Boy. A 3D “portable” console which saw only a year  on store shelves and a paltry 14 game US library. I remember seeing them at Kay-Bee Toys for 25 dollars after the system went belly up.

Nintendo is afraid of being the bargain bin system. At one point when Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass was released, they actually did wind up there. You could easily walk into any Gamestop and pick up the game for 5-10 dollars new. Since then I have yet to see any Nintendo IP in the bargain bin, much less on sale. They seem to be monitoring sales and discontinuing less popular games. This is good for Nintendo, but bad for budget gamers. Once the game goes out of print, the secondary market jacks up the price. Pikmin 3 recently went out of print and now you’ll be lucky to find it for less than 60 dollars. Ocarina of Time 3D for the 3ds? Another out of print game that is fetching anywhere from 15 dollars loose to 75 complete. The suggested retail price for that game was $39.99.

The question on everyone’s mind is, “When will it end?” With scalpers being aggressive and certain games just not being restocked, it doesn’t look like we have reached a peak in the great gaming race just yet. Nintendo doesn’t seem to be in such a hurry to stop these titles from exceeding retail price either and gamers don’t seem to mind paying the incredible price. I for one will be focusing on my NES collection. I recently purchased DuckTales 2 and intend to get my money’s worth.