Ready or not the Nintendo Switch is coming and it’s likely to be one of the hottest technology items of the year. Sadly when it comes to Nintendo, gamers know that the Japanese gaming giant has a nasty habit of producing too few of their devices – leaving many of their fans frustrated, annoyed or out-of-pocket as they desperately try to get their hands on consoles. These shortages are an unfortunate fixture for Nintendo, and I’m hoping they get their act together finally.
It’s not a new thing in technology. For as long as products have launched there have been those looking to cash in and make a quick buck on the back of hotly desired devices. Shortages create this demand and the eagerness of technology enthusiasts to get the device is enough to make such a situation lucrative (Remember when the Xbox 360 launched?). Yet with Nintendo in particular, there seems to be something of a trend when it comes to launch day woes. Too often fans are left struggling to getting their hands on a console in the initial launch period.
No where was this highlighted than in their recent product launches. The release of the NES Classic Console was undermined when demand outstripped supply – despite the fact that Nintendo knew the device would sell well. So bad did that situation get that gamers could find unopened consoles selling for around $250 – $300 on second-hand websites; an eye watering mark-up over the consoles modest price. It’s hard to imagine how that situation was allowed to play out either, given that Nintendo themselves hyped the machine heavily with a string of adverts and magazine ad spots. They knew it would be popular – so why didn’t they prepare accordingly?
It sadly wasn’t a one-off – as the infamous Amiibo shortages showed. Nintendo’s failure to ensure enough of their popular figurines were produced led to an entire black market forming around the figurines – with gamers facing hugely inflated prices and desperate scrambles to get their hands on the figures. It would have been fine if this had been confined to merely the first generation of these figurines, but the issues ran into much later generations; indicating that no one within Nintendo was aware of any issue.
There is speculation that Nintendo does all this on purpose – that by playing the market they can increase demand artificially. This perceived demand makes others want the product too – meaning that when they flush the market there’s an increase in demand. The problem with this theory is that it requires Nintendo to have the foresight to plan that far ahead and think in that way – which I don’t believe they do. Instead I think it’s more a case that Nintendo hedges its bets – deciding to play it safe rather than commit volume to their production.
Without question, the Nintendo Switch is a hugely desirable piece of kit and it’s very likely that getting hold of one will not be easy in the initial period. But I’d like to believe that Nintendo has the foresight to at least push enough units into the wild that gamers aren’t left scrambling to get their hands on the device en mass. They surely can’t get it worse than they did back when the Nintendo Wii launched – when they released that console right next to Christmas and left parents unable to get the console through retail channels. At the time media outlets were stinging in their critique of the company – sadly a sentiment that didn’t seem to make much difference.
This kind of disappointment has become a fixture of Nintendo’s product releases – and makes them look bush league. The likes of Apple and Samsung don’t get caught out like this and while Microsoft and Sony have done in the past – it’s been less of an issue through the last few years. Gamers shouldn’t be forced into the black market to get their hands on consoles – they should be able to go to a retail outlet and buy them without the hassle and stress.
It’s crucial for Nintendo to make sure that the number of consoles it’s making matches supply – something the company has been woefully poor at doing. They can’t catch people’s attention then act all coy when people actually want to buy their product. That’s not how business works, and if the Nintendo Switch launch is hampered with the kind of price inflation that sees its fans desperately chasing shadows on Ebay – then Nintendo has failed its fans.
Let’s hope that this new era for Nintendo can finally see them outgrow one of their more frustrating habits. For the sake of gamers at the very least, shortages should be a rare occurrence.