The SNES Mini is wonderful and just what the market needs

A £70/$80 games console is an ideal family product, irrespective of 1990s nostalgia

Yesterday I finished Super Mario World again.

I've completed it 1,000 times before, but this time I've done it using an actual SNES controller for the first time in almost 25 years.

My wife has been impatiently waiting for me to finish Bowser so that she can shove me off and continue her journey through The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past. She hasn't played that game in decades, but somehow seems to remember exactly where to go without checking the map. Hyrule was imprinted on her young mind in the mid-1990s and remains there to this day.

The SNES Mini is a retro gamer's dream, of course. Full of classic titles, running as intended, with Star Fox 2 the headline act - getting its first official public outing after Nintendo decided against releasing it in 1995 (afraid of poor comparisons with the newly launched PlayStation).


The Greatest Game Ever Made (probably)

It's a machine targeted squarely at nostalgic adults, which is evident from the design of the hardware to the chosen games. Yet as a product timed nicely to coincide with the Christmas sales window, it has far more significant potential - even more so than last year's NES Mini.

Last year's console remake was a lovely little product, but most of the games have been bettered since. Many of the titles on show haven't aged all too well.

That's not true with the SNES Mini. Super Mario World, Yoshi's Island, Super Metroid and Zelda remain as iconic and playable today as they did over 20 years ago. Even games like Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario RPG - the not-quite classics of the era - remain quality 8/10 games.

That means that if you're a parent that wants to introduce your child to video games, you have a legitimate new product to get them that isn't a $300 Switch or a $500 Xbox One X. What's more, it's a complete package. Two controllers, 21 games for £70/$80. No online subscription fee required. Even the Wii, which had a similar all-in-one appeal, required a second controller for Wii Sports.


The SNES Mini has broader appeal than the NES variety

Of course, there have been many plug-and-play consoles in the past, particularly featuring Sega titles, but these largely come from third-party accessory firms or toy manufacturers. Rarely do we get a product like this curated and backed by a games company as large as Nintendo.

Now, at last, partners and parents have something to buy their 30-something loved one that isn't a new pair of socks or a voucher. And the mums and dads amongst them will, undoubtedly, be placing that second controller into the hands of their young ones so that they can experience the joys of Super Mario Kart for the first time.

As a result, this is potentially an important product for Nintendo. Nintendo machines have historically been the 'my first games console', with some players moving onto other products as they get older (and those that hang around becoming advocates to the next generation). Yet Nintendo found itself sidelined during the first part of this current console cycle due to the failed Wii U, and iPhone is now the 'my first games console' for so many kids. Speaking anecdotally, even the older fans now find themselves playing on smartphones as opposed to the console under the TV.

"It's products like the SNES Mini that could get lapsed fans back to TV console gaming and bring in new ones, too"

Nintendo's move onto smartphones will help address a lot of that, but it's products like the SNES Mini that could get lapsed fans back to TV console gaming and bring in new players, too. And that's good for the entire console market, which is struggling to attract younger and more casual audiences.

So let's say it succeeds. Let's say Nintendo gets the stock levels right this time and there are millions of lost console players - and their kids - playing with SNES controllers come December 25th. Where do we go from here?

It's not an easy answer. There are only so many SNES Minis you can do, particularly with consoles that have games as timeless as these.

Super Mario Odyssey: one of many family console games this Q4

Super Mario Odyssey: one of many family console games this Q4

One solution to keeping kids and families engaged with TV gaming is to take a leaf out of our sister entertainment industries' playbook, and work together.

There's a large number of kids and family games on the market right now, with more to come over the next few weeks. Knack II, the Switch itself, Mario Odyssey, PlayLink, Disneyland Adventures, Minecraft, Arms, Crash Bandicoot, Rabbids, LEGO Ninjago, Mario Kart, Super Lucky's Tale... there's quite an impressive array of broader content that proves there's more to console gaming than 4K, VR, and massive online shooters.

It's not unusual for rival movie studios and record labels to unite on a cross-industry promotion that targets a specific audience, so wouldn't it be great to do something similar in games? A piece of orchestrated marketing activity where retailers push a selection of titles aimed specifically at kids and family audiences - and not just via Amazon, GAME and GameStop, but across Xbox Live, PSN and eShop, too. All supported by PR and maybe even a bit of above-the-line advertising.

It may require trade body support, but it could be just what the console industry needs - a strong reminder that's there is more to gaming on the TV than just shooting people in the face.

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Latest comments (11)

Tom Kersten Production Director, Mimimi Productions4 years ago
I am sure you are right that it's a wonderful product... now if Nintendo would only actually allow me to buy it somewhere!
But no, just as the NES Mini before, there is no stock available anywhere. At least here in Germany it doesn't seem like Nintendo will be able to meet the customer demands.

So reading this article is so bittersweet and I really hope that I will be wrong and they will get the stock levels right. But it sure doesn't look that way right now.
Nintendo, I just want to be able to give you my money... why won't you take it?! ;-)
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Christopher Dring Publisher, GamesIndustry.biz4 years ago
@Tom Kersten: Nintendo has already doubled shipments (in the UK at least) of the SNES Mini over the NES, and I'm told more will be available tomorrow and throughout Q4. It's in short supply, but they have significantly increased allocation.
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Jeremy Glazman Programmer 4 years ago
Here in Helsinki, the SNES mini is being sold at retail for €149.90, and it's already out of stock. Here's the message from the retailer:

"Product sold out for 2017. We will not receive any more pre-orders. According to the amounts allocated to us by Nintendo, the current order should be sufficient by the end of the year."

So this whole product line is still being massively exploited by all parties involved.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4 years ago
German release is tomorrow, however, the the usual suspects of distributors come up dry as of today. On the end customer side, the likes of Media Markt are not taking any preorders either.

For a prodct which launches tomorrow, it is unusual not to have a "click this button to get it tomorrow" anywhere. I expect severe shortages for Germany. Doubled shipments does not say whether it will hit demand or not.
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Christopher Dring Publisher, GamesIndustry.biz4 years ago
Demand will outstrip supply, I'm sure. But there looks likely to be large quantities in the market. I've managed to pre-order three SNES Minis (one for myself and two for Christmas presents), so there's stock out there for people that want it. A day one sell-out is not surprising. I do know of one major retailer that has stock for multiple markets for tomorrow morning.
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Alex Barnfield Lead Engineer, 17-BIT4 years ago
I can't believe that from over in Japan. Nothing but a twitter announcement two days before pre-orders opened and it still sold out immediately. Every store has held lotteries for pre-orders but from the dozen or so entries I know of no one has won, indeed I only know one person with a pre-order and she was in line from 5am.

Given the sell out that the Famicon-mini was double the stock doesn't sound even remotely adequate. The Famicon-mini was available as a walk in pre-order for a couple of days, but given its famous supply shortages (which no one expected, and were never resolved) the Super-Famicon was obviously going to be picked up by scalpers unless adequate stock was prepared.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Alex Barnfield on 28th September 2017 1:58pm

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4 years ago
German pre-orders were in short supply when Nintendo newsletters were the only source of information. Now the reviews are out and nobody in Germany seems to be ready to gobble up the customers they created. Not Amazon, not the electronic chains, not the video game corner stores. I call that less than ideal. Articles also being monetized with leads is a reality and the mini series is not delivering in that department. Amazon pre-orders yesterday lasted for an hour or so.

Naturally, I took a peek at the IT supply chain, to check how big the chances are for a store to pick up a Snes from one of the major distributors this week. There was nothing. During the Switch release there were at least people listing when they were going to have stock and that they would charge an extra 100€ because reasons. This time, there is nada. I expanded to France, where the situation seemed a little bit better with Oct. 5 as a promised date, if I ordered now. But it was not the land of plenty either.

I am sure that wandering into a media Markt this evening, I might be able to pick one up. After all, they do stock the shelves the night before. Video game extremists know this and will act on it accordingly. However, the wider nostalgia audience most reviews are baiting, will go home empty handed. Outside of who gets one and who doesn't, the whole business machinery is not working as smoothly as it should (and does in other places from PC parts to car wash supplies). That is the real shame, even when supply gets better.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 4 years ago
Remember, Nintendo doesn’t short, even though they had an entire year to plan for this and the example of the NES Mini to increase production. This is plenty of time to have additional lines on standby and to estimate worst case scenarios.

Can even the Nintendo fans admit this is a total lie now? They love fads, theybshort supply, and they’ll bring back the NES next year with a slightly different lineup for collectors to fight over another single run. By all accounts this system is essentially IDENTICAL to the NES mini internally, there is zero reason that this couldn’t be, with an SDcard slot or WiFi, an official renewable system with an online store that runs all 3 cartridge systems.

They can do what they want with their property, I just want them, and their fans to be honest about it.
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Christopher Dring Publisher, GamesIndustry.biz4 years ago
I think we need to remember how badly stung Nintendo was by 3DS and Wii U, when they had significant overstocks resulting in their first ever losses. I'm not convinced this is deliberate stock shortages - it really doesn't make sense. Just an over-cautious company afraid of oversupplying.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 4 years ago
@Christopher Dring: they have a thirty year history of deliberate shortages. They have the NES mini demand from last year, and by all indications the ability to dismantle them and shove them in other shells for the ones that don’t sell for the next promotion. It’s all but certainly deliberate so they can run the “GameStop will have them Sunday!””Sold out in five minutes!” stories ad nauseum.

They won’t do the “limited to 5 million units collector’s item!” marketing that would be honest. They live for the Funzo “I’d feel better if I saw some trampling”
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Richard Browne Head of External Projects, Digital Extremes4 years ago
All sold out in the US. Switch is now back in stock everywhere after being drip fed to the market for the past six months. Ramp up to Mario release is clearly at play. Nintendo will likely throttle SNES and Switch depending on what makes sense. That anyone doesn't understand Nintendo does this sort of thing boggles my mind.
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