Earlier this week, Nintendo announced an SNES. When I saw it, all I thought was, “why?”. Despite the rumors, I didn’t think this product would exist. Why cease production on one product having not meet demand to make a similar product. I believe there is more to this story than Nintendo has let on. So let’s examine why this product exists.
Reasons That Don’t Make Sense
There are a few ideas and thoughts I’ve heard online (and some I thought myself) as for why this product is being made. Before discussing the reason Nintendo made this product, I want to address some reasons I don’t agree with.
The obvious answer is that Nintendo just wants to make lots of money. If money was the sole reasons, then why would Nintendo kill the NES Classic, a product that Nintendo has not meet demand for? Nintendo would be better served more NES Classics than making the SNES version. For references, the NES sold 61.91 million while the SNES sold 49.10 million. If Nintendo was just trying to make money, then it would make more sense to meet demand for the NES Classic before making this.
Alternatively, Nintendo may be making this product because the Switch will be sold out this year. Nintendo wanted some other product to sell. Ignoring the fact that the SNES Classic will be sold out too, I don’t think this is the reason either. Rumors of the SNES Classic came out immediately after the NES Classic was discontinued. Nintendo likely made the decision before the Nintendo Switch was a rousing success.
Why Does the SNES Classic Exist
For more than 30 years now, Nintendo has been creating various IP for its game software, and as new iterations of the franchises are introduced, the value of each IP is strengthened. Today, there are many fans for each IP, and each one has different consumers with different lifestyles.
Therefore, it is natural that the best way to communicate our IP to each consumer also differs. We choose the most appropriate method to try to maximize the number of people who encounter Nintendo IP and, as a result, we will further expand the gaming population. This is our basic strategy.
When Nintendo presented this strategy, they presented it in terms of mobile gaming, yet this strategy is not exclusive to mobile. Nintendo later presented that the company would be working with Universal Studios. Additionally, Nintendo has discussed working on movies and animation. The strategy is not exclusive to mobile devices.
In Iwata’s own words, the point is to “choose the most appropriate method to try and maximize the number of people who encounter Nintendo IP.” So, why could this not also related to products like the NES Classic and the SNES Classic? Nintendo’s IPs are their games, so exposing customers to the older games is another method of “encountering” Nintendo IPs.
This theory is supported by comments from Gamestop managers. Before the official announcement, one reporter interviewed various Gamestop managers who had been told of the systems in a behind closed doors event. One comment stuck out. They stated, “With these plug-and-play systems, they want headlines and foot traffic, dude.” The author adds this may be his opinion rather than Nintendo strategy. Nevertheless, his statement coincides with Nintendo’s actions with both the NES Classic and SNES Classic. And boy, there were headlines for this system, including sites like Fox and The Verge.
The Future of the Classics
When looking at any product, it’s easy to look only in terms of profit generation. Companies sell products to reap profits, but Nintendo, like with the mobile games, is using a product to market their IPs. Naturally, Nintendo is going to make the SNES Classic to turn a profit, but profits are not the prime directive of the product. The point is to get Nintendo IPs to as many people as possible so they’ll turn around and buy Nintendo consoles.
All in all, I don’t think this is the last time we’ll see a “Classic” system. Once the NES Classic became a hit, the systems became a dedicated pillar of Nintendo’s IP push. My expectation is that Nintendo will turn the “Classic” products into a consistent mainstay. Nintendo could release a N64 Classic, a Wii Classic or even re-release the NES or SNES Classic. Nevertheless, as long as they generate foot traffic and headlines, we’ll keep seeing plug-and-play systems from Nintendo.