Nintendo hasn’t been as popular in the last five years as it is now. Whilst there’s no actual figures to measure its current ‘popularity’ until the sales figures of the Nintendo Switch are revealed April 27, it’s worth noting how the stock markets have reacted to Nintendo in the last five years. After the sluggish beginnings of the Wii U in 2012, there have been two peaks. One in June 2015, around the time of E3, and another in 2016, with ridges formed from the release of Pokémon Go and the NES Mini. That peak has since continued, with another ridge forming from the release of the Nintendo Switch. Since the Switch was released, the NES Mini had continued shifting units until Nintendo announced they were ending production.
Naturally, the decision mystified much of the media. It was even said that Nintendo hated money, removing a console that had sold more units in its first month than the Wii U sold in six. Ever since they pulled production, the price of the NES Mini has skyrocketed on eBay, peaking at US$332 on the first day since the news. It might seem that Nintendo has pulled the NES Mini too soon, but this was never a product designed to make Nintendo huge profits, rather a marketing trick to peak interest in Nintendo until the release of the Switch.
The NES Mini was never meant to be on the market for too long, and had been confirmed to be discontinued back in February. The surprise came in the sales themselves, with Nintendo deciding to produce more of the console after demand was much greater than they initially predicted. It can only be assumed that Nintendo had originally planned to pull the plug on the NES Mini before the launch of the Nintendo Switch. The continued production the NES Mini after the launch of the Switch was driven largely by market demand.
The discontinuation comes shortly after Nintendo’s latest Direct presentation. This represented a small window into the year ahead for Nintendo, revealing new games for both the 3DS and the Switch. Nintendo must look to the future for its long-term strategy, and to rely on a system designed on nostalgia doesn’t provide a solution to their long-term goal.
The achievement of the NES Mini is not in its excellent sales, but in reintroducing Nintendo to the world after the failure of the Wii U. The NES Mini ensured Nintendo as a brand was positively received in the media before its big day came on March 3. After losing the console war with Sony and Microsoft, positive publicity while Nintendo reinvents itself to a different audience is a savvy marketing ploy. While Sony and Microsoft fight for the same market, Nintendo has used its legacy to enhance a nostalgic response, bolstering Switch sales.
Is the Nintendo Switch going to outsell the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One? No, but it doesn’t need to. The demographics have changed and Nintendo knows this. The different demographic is represented in the different product, which is why the NES Mini was used so clinically. The people that grew up with the NES, or indeed the SNES, are the same people that have likely bought the Switch. This same strategy can be seen with Nintendo’s move into the mobile gaming market, an acknowledgment of the demographic using smartphones. The discontinuation of the NES Mini is not Nintendo’s reluctance to make money, but a genius marketing strategy that has fulfilled its purpose; a ‘switch’ to the future.