Imagine your wildest dream comes true and you are offered the ability to control Nintendo for a day. Ok, what would you do after you’ve ordered every copy of every amiibo ever made.
I’ve always felt that Nintendo do a lot of great things as a business. Like any big company, I try to balance the justification between making profits and pleasing their client base. Not always do the two align and sometimes that creates friction. And for every NSO there is a THNX2ALLGAMEFANS.
OK, this year is now the year of Waluigi!
So what would I do after ordering Kieran an elusive Qbby amiibo? Well I’d be looking at Nintendo’s marketing policy, and removing the words “Fear of Missing Out”. Whilst the practice isn’t new, the acronym, FOMO, is more so. Recently being applied to marketing practices that prey on our desire to feel included. The desire to feel included and not “miss out” driving sales from customers who would normally delay their decisions.
Nintendo has been a huge proponent of using FOMO from way back in the NES days. The limited run of consoles has always been claimed to be an oversight in customer demand. But this use of artificial scarcity has now extended well beyond buying the hardware, with amiibo being a great example of the start of the decline as it were.
How every company changes, drip by drip
More recently, as part of Nintendo’s celebration of the 35th Anniversary of Super Mario Bros. the company released Super Mario 3D All-Stars. Fans had been craving for this and despite the lack of upgrades we still bought the game in droves. But how much of that is people buying the title because it will be taken away at the end of March 2021?
A big issue surrounding this, and similar limited releases. Is that the only people who really win are people that gamer’s would consider the worst. Nintendo sell all the units they want to, they make the profit they expect and therefore are happy. Consumers who purchase the item are happy, they have the item. But what tends to happen in the harsh reality of life is the consumer pays a mark up to a 3rd party seller – the “scalper”. Consumers who can’t save up in time, or for some other reason can’t jump on the hype train miss out.
Taking a Leaf from the Mouse (no not Mouser!)
Another huge entertainment company used similar practices with its intellectual property. Originally the Walt Disney Company refused to released their animated features onto home video (for the younger ones, they were huge black boxes you had to insert into another black box to “stream” a movie, but only that movie! And you had to rewind it to watch it again…) Point is, it took a lot of persuasion to just agree to release content. When their movies did come out, they would be on a short release, only to be returned back to the vault for years.
In 2021 we are now in a world where access to that same content is now freely available, and yet, the Walt Disney Company hasn’t gone bust because it’s content is now readily consumable. Frankly the same argument should be made to Nintendo. So is it a case of wanting cash now as opposed to the gentle trickle? Could Nintendo not have both? With the advent of digital releases, why is limited release still a thing? While I’ve not purchased one myself, I love the limited-run model, if you like a game enough – buy a limited release cosmetically blinged-out version, but the original digital is still available.
Possible silver lining? or PR Disaster in the making?
In fact there’s already a suggestion that the big N might consider re-releasing these Mario titles individually, possibly as digital only, claiming that their wording of the original announcement meant that the “collection” was only available for a limited time. Frankly, this would do a lot of PR damage I feel. But it is certainly a way to have their cake and eat it. I personally liked the suggestion of Mario Galaxy 2 being released at the same time as a pseudo “apology” for fans who had the collection.
The thing that worries me more is that while these practices have been used before, with some backtracking in places such as with producing more of the NES and SNES classic consoles, going forward it sets a precedence that many fans might not like and feels a little predatory in a world where more and more companies are vying for your hard earned cash.
The future could be very different
If Mario 3D All-Stars sells well (and why wouldn’t it?) then we roll out Zelda 3D All-Stars next year (yes please….) and Metroid Prime Trilogy after that (please stop drooling, you’re ruing the keyboard). But all of these have short windows, high prices and limited quantities… and again, is this still a small change we can accept? Could legacy content be treated like some developers treat DLC with short windowed “exclusives”? I guess we’ll likely know more on April 1st.