A few days ago, we learned that the NES Classic Edition will be retired, and people are mad. Wired had an article running yesterday titled “Discontinuing the NES Classic is a Classic Nintendo Mistake”. Though my personal favorite was from Ars Technica, “Nintendo Hates Money, Discontinues the NES Classic”
It probably doesn’t come as a huge shock to anyone that I, being legally blind, am not a big gamer, and never really have been. The move away from the 2D world of the SNES and Sega Genesis was the beginning of the end of gaming for me, as graphics have gotten increasingly detailed games have just gotten more difficult to the point of impossible (looking at you Eternal Sonata). When I saw that the NES Classic was released, I was stoked. To me it meant I could replace my old SNES that I’ve had since the early 90s and finally play some cool (different?) games on my TV again.
Alas, Nintendo seems to be determined that I never get to upgrade my sad, dying SNES and Sega Genesis—yes, I live in the 90s. We also learned this week, that it is not only the NES Classic that will be retired, the Japanese version of the product called the Famicon Classic, has also been discontinued.
What does this mean for the future of Nintendo? Why are they doing this? No one seems to know the answer. Nintendo, for their part, is claiming that the product was never meant to be produced indefinitely. Wired quoted a Nintendo representative as saying, ““NES Classic Edition wasn’t intended to be an ongoing, long-term product.” Despite this, Nintendo has sold 1.5 million consoles. The product was so immensely popular, that the company had to increase shipments in order to attempt to keep up with demand. Nevertheless, they have continued to be difficult to track down.
Polygon analyzed several other reasons why the console might have been pulled. It is possible that it was because the unit was remarkably easy to break into, there were several tutorials released online by gamers from around the globe eager to teach others how to hack into the device. However, Polygon ran another article in January debunking the issue of piracy. The type of person who knows enough about hacking into a game, goes the argument, is the same person who has already spent a great deal of money on Nintendo products, so it is not really a profit loss for the company. Additionally, people with the skills to hack into the NES Classic will also be equipped with a skillset enabling them to create an emulator at a much lower cost, and it will give them a wider selection of games to play.
It is also possible that there could be something going on with licenses behind the scene. The console includes 30 games, not all of which were originally released by Nintendo. Journalists are guessing that it is possible for one of these companies to have gotten a little over zealous about the profitability of the console and attempted to get more out of profits.
However, everyone seems to agree that the most likely reason is because either Nintendo is calling it quits on classic games all-together, or they have something up their sleeve. Polygon reported a quote from the company saying, “This product has ended production for now. When production is being resumed, we will tell you on our website.” The wording of this has given rise to a lot of rumors that Nintendo is indeed planning something. There is a theory that Nintendo might be trying to add a Virtual Console, a kind of console inside of another, to the Switch, “The Switch would make a good retro game machine for the same reason it would make a good indie machine; its flexibility as a system has a way of making good games even more appealing.”
The NES Classic Edition was a good add to the Nintendo line-up, because it got people like me (who weren’t buying Nintendo anyway) interested in purchasing from them again. There is a whole generation of people who grew up playing old Nintendo games, and this catered to them. With older consoles getting more difficult to connect to modern televisions, having a system like this would be fantastic! From a blindness perspective, newer games are a nightmare. They contain a lot of detail that mask passages and items, and sometimes the lighting is just atrocious. At this point in my gaming life, the only way I can play a game in the Zelda series, probably the only series I would get the energy to go through anymore, I need the assistance of a strategy guide. Even with that, during several dungeons in Twilight Princess, I repeatedly ran Link off cliffs and just straight-up memorized the path based on trial and error. Older games are great because I can actually play.
Unfortunately for anyone hoping to get their hands on some older games, Nintendo has a poor record of providing gamers with access to games from the NES or SNES. They tend to underestimate how much all of us love, and want to play older games—and to what lengths we will go to play them. For now, April will be the last shipment of the NES Classic to stores, but it is unlikely you will be able to get your hands on one. This product is on the path to becoming a collector’s item. Hopefully the outrage over its discontinuation will spark the company to take a closer look at this currently untapped market—but I’m not holding my breath.
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