Nintendo's SNES Classic preorders were a shitshow

Commentary: Thought you'd preorder an SNES Classic online? Think again.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
4 min read

I sure hope you weren't hoping to preorder the Super NES Classic Edition, the pint-size remake of one of Nintendo 's most beloved game consoles . Because Nintendo doesn't seem to want your $80, £80 or AU$120.

How else would you explain what loyal Nintendo fans went through in the past 18 hours?

  • We woke up this morning to find that Best Buy and Amazon, two of only six retailers pledged to carry the SNES Classic, had launched their preorders late at night or in the wee hours of the morning at 3 a.m. -- with no warning whatsoever. We didn't find any email notifications in our inbox, even though we'd signed up.
  • We discovered -- many of us far too late -- that Walmart opened preorders at 10 a.m. PT sharp, again with no warning whatsoever. Walmart sold out in under two minutes.
  • We eagerly added the SNES Classic to our Target digital shopping carts at around 10:15 a.m. PT -- again, assuming we were lucky enough to see someone tweet a link, because Target didn't tell anyone in advance -- only to see Target steal it right out of our cart after we finished entering credit card info. (We had the same result later in the day.) 

The SNES Classic snafu at Target.

Screenshot by Sean Hollister/CNET
  • We refreshed GameStop.com like mad after the company announced it would offer SNES Classic preorders today, starting at around 10 a.m. PT, but only found a placeholder page. (That was before the site crashed under the weight of fan enthusiasm.) We're still having trouble getting the page to load.
  • When we realized you had to actually go to a physical GameStop store to order the console for its normal $80 price -- instead of an overpriced bundle -- we ran down there, only to stand in a long line while the store waited for its point-of-sale (POS) terminals to actually let them issue preorders. And many of us walked away without one, anyhow.
  • We tried the GameStop app, where the SNES Classic was indeed showing up as available for preorder with or without bundled extras -- only to discover we couldn't add it to our cart or purchase one, no matter how many times we tried.
  • On the way back, we got excited when we heard that ThinkGeek was selling the SNES Classic too -- only to discover that the GameStop-owned company was jacking up the price with even pricier bundles than the ones that gave us pause at GameStop.
  • In the afternoon, we discovered that the sixth and final major retailer we'd pinned our last hopes on -- Toys "R" Us -- wouldn't be offering preorders of the SNES Classic at all.

Make no mistake: These things are Nintendo's fault. Yes, these retailers did a poor job notifying people, and sure, their websites couldn't handle the load. But if Nintendo hadn't decided to produce and allocate so few SNES Classics to begin with, or if Nintendo had figured out a way to fairly distribute them (a raffle, perhaps?), far fewer people would walk away disappointed. 

We thought things would be different this time. That Nintendo would learn from its gross underestimation of just how desirable last year's NES Classic would be, and produce more units this time around. That Nintendo would have a plan to fairly distribute those units to the masses, instead of handing them to those who just happened to be in the right place in the right time, or -- worse -- robotic scalpers.

To be sure, Nintendo hinted early on that SNES Classic supplies might be limited, but there were some early signs that Nintendo had indeed learned its lesson -- particularly when Walmart apologized for accidentally announcing SNES Classic preorders back in July. Reading between the lines, it sure sounded like Nintendo had chastized Walmart for ruining its master plan. Which made us think that perhaps Nintendo had a master plan to begin with, instead of chaos.

Clearly, that wasn't the case. Chaos prevailed, and it makes us wonder if chaos is what Nintendo is hoping for come Sept. 29. That's the official launch date for the SNES Classic, and it's when retailers (including GameStop, Target and Toys "R" Us) have said some will be available to buy in brick-and-mortar stores. Remember what parents and kids did for Beanie Babies or a Tickle Me Elmo back in the 90's? Remember the resale prices then?

That publicity made those toys legendary -- and the resulting craze made a fortune for the company that produced them, even if many of the Beanie Babies people purchased were (comparatively) worthless. 

Maybe Nintendo's banking on that idea, hoping it can train its fans to mindlessly purchase whatever it sells in the hope it'll be worth something someday. Or maybe Nintendo's simply hoping stoke the flames of Nintendo nostalgia strongly enough that people run out in droves to purchase its new Nintendo Switch instead. 

But how many times can Nintendo disappoint fans before their patience wears thin?

Nintendo didn't respond to repeated requests for comment.

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