As everyone already knows, Nintendo has had some rough years lately. However, they are in somewhat of a resurgence right now thanks to a few key moves that have revived their fanbase, while bringing in a nice chunk of the casual crowd. Super Smash Bros. was a massive success, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is getting the remake that hardcore fans have spent years begging for, and Amiibo are flying off store shelves in a way that almost no one could have predicted. However, with every big step forward from Nintendo, they often take a few steps back, and it is starting to turn away the customers they fought so hard to regain in the first place.
Let’s start with the most recent two steps forward that I’ve already mentioned: the Majora’s Mask remake, and Amiibo. Both of these have been big successes for Nintendo, but they could have been so much more. Limited supplies, whether intentional or due to unknown production issues, have plagued both products to the point that resellers are making the cash that Nintendo could have, and diehard fans are becoming angered by their inability to simply give Nintendo their money.
The limited edition release of both The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D, and the New 3DS model made for it, have had their stocks sell out in a ridiculously small window of time. In both cases the item was announced and began selling in the same day, and again in both cases the product disappeared before fan’s eyes. The anger that those fans felt as they watched their precious limited edition item slip out of their hands solidified into rage as many copies popped up on eBay for astronomical prices. Of course, Nintendo can’t really control the reseller market directly, but they can impact it significantly by ensuring that supply somewhat matches demand. Looking at the continued rate at which these two items sell out shows that they aren’t even close to this goal.
Amiibo have essentially become the poster child for mismanagement of supply
Likewise, Amiibo have essentially become the poster child for mismanagement of supply. Many of the Wave 1 figures, such as Marth, Wii Fit Trainer, and Villager, saw entire communities form around efforts to find and buy the figure. The scarcity continued as new figures were introduced and quickly became collector’s items worth many times the original asking price. Some might argue that this is exactly what Nintendo wants to happen, that the scarcity generates buzz, which generates sales. However, the economical effect of the supply side of the market not meeting up with demand is widely known as Deadweight Loss, and it usually isn’t a good thing to have. I would argue that the sales generated by the low supply never get to the point where they make up for those that simply weren’t able to purchase the product.
This is especially true given that the holidays are now over, meaning all of those parents who searched high and low for a Villager Amiibo for their child have moved on and won’t be looking again, possibly ever. Sure, Nintendo might have still gotten a sale out of them, as they defaulted to the prolific Mario Amiibo instead, but they could have easily earned more in both the short and long term if those parents had been able to totally fulfill their child’s wish and given them the Amiibo they wanted. Instead they have a somewhat dissatisfied customer who has little reason to believe they will be able to get the products they will want in the future. It’d be one thing if only a few of the figures were hard to find, but at this point nearly every figure outside of the main set have had shortages at one time or another.
Whether Nintendo is artificially limiting supplies or not, either way they are their own worst enemy right now. Even if the short supplies have generated extra sales due to fear and the promise of big money on eBay, they are harming their long term prospects due to fan anger. One highly sought after item being hard to find isn’t a big deal, but nearly everything Nintendo has introduced over the last few months has become a pain to locate and buy. The aforementioned Majora’s Mask limited edition game and Amiibos are the most prolific at this time, but there has also been the Gamcube Adapter for Wii U, the newly revealed Majora’s Mask New 3DS XL, and a few others of lesser significance. The anger that I have discussed here can easily be seen in the hundreds of 1-Star reviews currently posted on the Majora’s Mask New 3DS XL Amazon listing.
Nintendo survives off of the interest of their hardcore fans, the ones who want to own pretty much every item I’ve discussed here. Those fans are ready and willing to hand over their money for Nintendo products, but if they are unable to and are forced to watch as scalpers make hundreds off of their misfortune, then eventually they will break and give up even trying to get these items. Sure, they’ll still be there for the occasional big release, but the limited editions and Amiibo collections will fall down on the priority list simply due to the hassle expected in trying to buy them. Nintendo needs to look at their production methods and figure out how to best meet the market demand for their product. If they don’t they might find that demand will shrink to make it happen for them.