Why Nintendo won’t release a SNES Classic Mini in 2017

Alex Kidman 14 December 2016

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Nintendo can’t produce NES Classic Mini units fast enough, but don’t expect it to rush into making a SNES Classic Mini any time soon.

It’s fair to say that Nintendo didn’t quite predict the feeding frenzy that surrounded the NES Classic Mini. Every manufacturer wants to create the hot Christmas toy, and the NES Classic certainly fits that bill. At the same time, while it’s nice to be sold out, it would be even nicer for Nintendo’s coffers for it to be able to at least partially meet the incredible demand for its first tiny retro console.

Right now, what stock there is of the NES Classic not already wrapped up for Christmas (or being enjoyed) is largely in the hands of eBay scalpers, who are commanding (and getting) seriously inflated prices for the consoles.

Nintendo will eventually get more stock out there in the new year if you’re patient, but for many gamers, the real game is yet to emerge. Almost as soon as the NES Classic Mini was unveiled, folks started talking up the potential for its successor, presumably the SNES Classic Mini.

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There’s certainly a huge library of absolute blockbuster games that most definitively stand the test of time that could be included on such a unit. Hopefully Nintendo would be sensible enough to go with the Super Famicom styling rather than the ugly purple brick that the US got for their version of the Super Nintendo Entertainment system. Sorry, US folks, but you very much got the short end of the ugly stick there.

It's fun to dream of a tiny system with games such as Super Mario World, Street Fighter II, Super Metroid, Star Fox, Super Ghouls & Ghosts, Final Fantasy VI, Secret Of Mana and Super Bomberman on it, and I've no doubt that Nintendo is at least exploring the possibilities of such a system. Equally, Nintendo, when you build it, even though I've got a very healthy library of actual SNES carts, I will buy it. I'm sure I won't be alone.

That said, the odds of Nintendo releasing a SNES Classic Mini in time for Christmas 2017 seem vanishingly small if you stop to think about it.

For a start, Nintendo will be spending the first quarter of 2017 producing and selling NES Classic Mini consoles to those consumers not able to secure them for Christmas this year, including the thousands left wanting by server meltdowns at EB Games and more recently Target. There are lessons there for Australian online retail to learn, but they're not actually Nintendo's problem. What it wants to do is sell more NES Classic Mini consoles, just as soon as they drop off the factory lines.

Any announcement of a SNES Classic Mini would seriously disrupt those sales. Sure, it’s quite likely that some folks who only wanted a NES Classic Mini for Christmas may not bother at all in the new year, but Nintendo can be assured of some healthy sales regardless.

Then there’s the issue that while the sales for the NES Classic Mini may have taken Nintendo by surprise, it’s now very much aware of the fervour for all things retrogaming and the kinds of money folks are willing to spend.

What that lends itself to more than developing a new SNES Classic Mini quickly is a second generation NES Classic Mini. The vast majority of the hard work in circuit design and emulator design is largely done, so even if the sales aren't quite as good as the first time around, there would still be easy money to be made. Nintendo did go all out for the more obvious classic games for the first model, so it can’t exactly pull out three more direct Super Mario titles, but there’s still plenty of cream left in the NES library that designers could draw from.

Probably nothing with a direct film or IP tie-in, so if you grew up with Sunsoft’s Batman or the woeful-but-terribly-popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, they’re likely out of bounds. But Capcom could part with a few more Megaman titles, Square could cough up other Final Fantasy titles (some of which are already on the existing Famicom Classic Mini). Maybe Blaster Master. How about Salamander to compliment Gradius? Metal Gear could be included, as could more obscure Nintendo first-party fare such as Clu Clu Land, Wrecking Crew or Pro Wrestling? If you want to appeal more to the retro die hards, throw in, say, Elite, or to really mess with collector’s heads, Stadium Events.

There’s plenty to pick from, but the moment Nintendo jumps into the SNES era, you can bet that the interest level would wane markedly as those whose adolescences were more defined by that console rush to it. In Australia, the NES was rather secondary to a large number of competing platforms, ranging from Sega’s Master System to the Commodore 64, but the SNES was another success story entirely.

Then there’s the Nintendo Switch, the product that the company sees very much as its future, rather than its retro past. 2017 will be the year that the Switch either sails or sinks, depending on how it competes against Sony and Microsoft’s own consoles. While it’s feasible a SNES Classic Mini could outsell (or at least outhype) the Switch, that’s not a result that would particularly please Nintendo, further lengthening the odds of a rush to market for a SNES Classic Mini.

Ultimately, the success of the NES Classic Mini means that the existence of a SNES Classic Mini is pretty much assured. Precisely when we'll see it will naturally depend on factors such as manufacturing costs and a certain amount of licensing runaround with the third parties that made a lot of the SNES catalog stand out. But as the hot toy for Christmas 2017? I wouldn’t bet on it. Nintendo can genuinely afford to wait on releasing it, because it's only going to get more retro as time goes by.

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