A throwback video-game system is the popular gift this holiday season.
But it’s unclear whether the Nintendo NES Classic Edition will be available in Vancouver for Christmas, after the console flew off store shelves within minutes of being launched Nov. 11.
“Day by day, we’re waiting to see,” said Courtney Drobot, who manages the EB Games store in South Surrey. “We got another shipment today. I opened the box, and the next three transactions were like bang, bang, bang! They were gone in 10 minutes.”
The original NES was released in 1985 and kick-started a new generation of gaming consoles, making Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, and The Legend of Zelda household names.
In the NES Classic Edition, 30 games come built-in within a miniature console. It is compatible for today’s TVs but also has an optional setting that recreates scan lines on screen to mimic the look of the ’80s and ’90s.
“It’s a huge deal for Gen-Xers. It’s nostalgic,” says Jay Catterson, a gamer since age five who was 17th in line at a Walmart in North Vancouver on launch day. The store had 18 units.
He was one of the lucky ones while many customers were left upset.
Drobot handed out golden tickets to her customers who stood in line as early as 5 a.m. She recalls someone had offered $200 to those in the front of the line. No one took the offer.
A high price for nostalgia
Retailing at $79.99, the NES Classic is an affordable gift. But many are shaking their heads as scalpers are selling the product on resale sites in the range of $450. The highest price was $2,450 posted on E-Bay less than a week after the launch.
Some say that’s a waste of money.
“Go buy your 4K TV and PS4 Pro if you’re going to throw that kind of money around!” said Catterson.
The Sony PS4 Pro launched a day earlier than the NES Classic. Retailing at $499.99, it’s more advanced than the retro Nintendo console. It remains widely available.
“The PS4 Pro is the hot Christmas item from Sony,” according to Drobot “but the NES is all about the nostalgia.”
Catterson said, with the controller cord being only three-quarters of a metre long, “I felt like a kid again sitting on my living-room floor on a cushion closer to the TV. Remember these games are so hard! If you mastered them as a kid, you were king of the playground!”
Drobot managed to snatch one NES Classic for her father. “I used to play with my dad when I was little and he gave me the original when I moved out so I thought it’d be cool to give back to him.”
It’s a classic edition, not a limited edition
Catterson doesn’t think Nintendo is intentionally restricting supply, “I think they were being conservative especially with the WiiU not doing so well. They’re gauging the public demand. They’re smart enough to know they’re not going to have 1,700 units on the shelf collecting dust!”
Nintendo’s Twitter page states the company is “working hard to keep up with consumer demand. There will be a steady flow of additional systems through the holiday shopping season and into the new year.” Nintendo’s PR firm, Golin, would not comment any further.
Drobot advises customers to keep checking in with local retailers. And the new challenge will be, she said, locating a much-valued accessory: “Finding that second controller will be the trick now.”