My encounter with Nintendo’s scarcity

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Earlier, I talked about special edition Nintendo products and how they are only benefitting scalpers. I was one of those gamers that refused to pay more than retail price for a product, even if it was something I really wanted. I wasn’t planning on getting the Majora’s Mask special edition 3DS because it was sold out just about everywhere just as it was able to be purchased. But my friend told me if I wanted one, I should try to get to Target as they open.

I figured, what the hell. The last time I got up early to wait in line for something was back when the original Nintendo Wii was released. I got up around 6:00 a.m. to make sure I got to Target in enough time to get my Wii. I was the first person in line. It was extremely cold that morning, but I came prepared and got my console.

The Target in Morgantown opens at 8:00 a.m. and I arrived just a little after 7:00. There was no one there for the first 15 minutes. The manager saw me standing outside at the door and poked his head out the side door, “We don’t open for another 45 minutes.”

“Oh, I know,” I told him. I guess this new 3DS isn’t that big of a deal. But then more people came. There were five us total. One of guys gave up because he did not come prepared for the cold. Another gentleman was one of the poor souls that had his preorder cancelled by Best Buy. I really hope that we all got our systems. We were all willing to wait in line in the cold before the store opened. We deserved to be rewarded.

When the store finally opened, we all walked back to the electronics section cordially. I feared that someone might make a run for it, but it was agreed upon that we were in the order we arrived. One of the Target employees said, “So you guys here for the Majora’s Mask game?” Uh, not exactly, friend. “What about the system?” a woman asked. Two of the employees looked at each other and paused. It was like they were trying to hide something from us. Like they didn’t want us to have them.

“We have one,” one of them told us. I was honestly shocked. At released, this store got one system. I felt so bad for these other people that didn’t get one, but obviously not bad enough to give mine up. I was probably the only person in the whole city to get one that day. There’s no reason for Nintendo to release that few of a product. There should have been four, one of each of us there. Kotaku posted updates throughout the day of release and the amount of grief people went through to get one was disheartening.

The product itself really is gorgeous. I suggest to anyone that didn’t like the 3DS because of the unstable 3D mode to grab the new version of the hardware. I never turn the 3D off anymore. Games like Pokemon: Omega Ruby still don’t look great because of the drop in frames with the 3D on. I don’t think that game was ever designed to be played in 3D. But Majora’s Mask looks fantastic. You don’t need the special edition 3DS to enjoy it, but you definitely look way cooler playing it.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

No one cared about the new 3DS XL…until Nintendo sold the one with the mask.

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Any Zelda fan that has a true love for the franchise would want to have this. It looks beautiful! And the new 3DS XL solves a lot of the problems associated with the 3D mode that was hard to tolerate for more than five minutes. Chris Kohler at WIRED.com got to play the graphically enhanced Majora’s Mask, originally released for the Nintendo 64 in 2000, on the new 3DS XL.

“My first experience with New 3DS made it clear that it had at least solved the illusion-breaking issue, but I also found that the weird eye fatigue was gone. I could play and play and play in 3-D and totally forget I was doing it,” Kohler said.

Playing Ocarina of Time on 3DS was great, but I never played it with the 3D mode on. I anticipated keeping it off for Majora’s Mask until I read what the new hardware can do. Okay I know! I have a 3DS XL currently. I’ll pre-order the new 3DS XL Majora’s Mask special edition, along with the game. Then when I go to pick it up, I’ll trade in my current device to take a chunk out of the cost! Perfect plan!

Doing a quick search on the product led to some alarming revelations. They’ve been completely sold out…for a long time. The system sells for $199.99. If you really, really want one, you can get on eBay. There are hundreds, literally hundreds selling between $300 and $500. Thomas Whitehead at nintendolife.com explains what is happening best:

“Products designed – by their very concept of being special editions – for dedicated fans are snapped up by many with no interest in them, all in the name of charging those that are desperate. Nintendo gets its cut of the retail sales, but these private sales are a Wild West and are all about exploiting fans for personal gain.”

I’ve been through this hunt before with Nintendo a few times now. It reminds me of the time I searched for the Super Smash Bros. Wii U bunduru complete with Gamecube controller and adapter. It made something I thought should be an extremely simple purchase into something infuriating. I am at least thankful that I have absolutely no interest in Nintendo’s Amiibo figures, designed to used with games like Super Smash Bros. Wii U.

This frustration of artificial scarcity all falls back on Nintendo. Yes, making fewer copies of a product will increase the value, but this only hurts the people who truly love Nintendo and want the products. Carlton McHard is a hardcore Nintendo fan who wants to see some change in how they operate.

“That is the terrible reality of this situation, Nintendo. There are fans out there that have followed you for years. There are some like me who have known you our entire lives. We’re dedicated customers and we want to buy your merchandise. I only wish that you would make it available to us and not punish regular consumers for the sake of your brand. The hype generated around scarcity only creates dissonance between you and loyal fans.”

But who knows how Nintendo will respond? What can we do as loyal fans and consumers? Regardless of how badly you want a product, like the Majora’s Mask 3DS, never buy it for more than the retail price. Also, be at peace with not having the product. Make compromises. Maybe I don’t need the Majora’s Mask 3DS. Maybe I’ll just get a regular new 3DS and find whatever Zelda decorations to put on it.

For now, enjoy the things you already have. Go plug in your  Super Nintendo or Nintendo 64. Play some Mario. It’ll make you feel better.