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Nintendo’s Discontinuation Of The NES Mini Was A Savvy Move



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 Switch is Nintendo’s latest console.

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.

The NES Mini was sold on nostalgia.

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.

Lost his ticket on the 'Number 9' Luxury Express Train to the Ninth Underworld. Has been left to write articles and reviews about games to write off his debt until the 'powers that be' feel it is sufficiently paid.



  1. Ricky D

    April 19, 2017 at 5:36 am

    We just discussed this on the podcast today and once again I am on the same page as you, although I do think the Switch will outsell XBOX ONE and maybe the PS4.

  2. John Cal McCormick

    April 19, 2017 at 7:25 am

    I’m a bit torn on whether this was smart business or not. I certainly wouldn’t say genius, by any stretch of the imagination. If they’re paving the way for the Switch, why are they still selling 3DS? 3DS – if anything – is the console they should have killed because it’s a direct competitor to the Switch. The NES Mini thing was a novelty item for Christmas stockings.

    Sure, the less consoles on the table, the less consumers have to choose from. But I don’t think the NES Classic rekindled a bunch of people’s love for Nintendo and that’s why Switch sold well, or anything like that. Switch sold well because it just launched and they were smart enough to make plenty of them. It outsold the Wii because the Wii was supplied constrained and had its best months not at launch, but further down the road. Sales will drop in the coming months, almost certainly.

    Personally, I think I’d have kept the Classic around longer. It was nice to see people be super excited for Nintendo again. At least until they got a look at that cable on the controller.

    • James Baker

      April 19, 2017 at 2:21 pm

      I wrote about the 3DS after the Nintendo Direct presentation and thought it was an odd move to still be releasing fairly big name games on it. My hope is E3 will announce further Switch games and put the 3DS to sleep.

      The NES Mini has been on the market longer than they intended. The problem with the Switch was partly its marketing. I feel if it had been marketed as a handheld, rather than a home console, it would have hit its demographic much better. When Nintendo lined it up as a home console, it was always going to be compared to Sony and Microsoft, which aren’t directing competitors anymore. I don’t expect sales to drop too much in the first year, especially if they focus on its handheld capabilities.

      • John Cal McCormick

        April 19, 2017 at 3:04 pm

        If you haven’t already seen, the rumour is out that they didn’t kill the NES Mini for anything Switch related, but because a SNES mini is coming this year. So it seems it’s probably not much of a marketing masterstroke for Switch.

        Also, I agree the console was weirdly marketed in some ways. Like, they could have marketed as the most powerful handheld ever. Instead, it’s an expensive, under-powered home console. Or so the perception goes. But generally they still got the message across of what it was, much better than with Wii U anyway.

        I would expect sales to drop but maybe not. If I was a betting man I’d say they will. Launch is no indicator of success, especially with a company that has so many loyal fanboys. Once the hardcore have bought it and it’s left to live and die by it’s game(s) I assume it’ll struggle. But hey I’ve been wrong before. That’s what’s so fun about this. We don’t know until we do.

  3. Brent Middleton

    April 29, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    I think it’ll outsell the Xbox One after a few years on the market

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