Why I’m Worried That You Still Can’t Pre-Order A Nintendo Switch – Forbes
With less than a week to go, I still can’t pre-order a Nintendo Switch.
This is a problem that’s mitigated for me, at least to some degree, by the fact that I have a (temporary) review unit so that I’m able to pen reviews of the Switch and its premiere launch title, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But that is no comfort to the countless other gamers out there who have no such luck and missed the very narrow pre-order window.
So far my impressions of the Switch have been nothing short of glowing. I’ve written about some of the amazing experiences I’ve had in Breath of the Wild as well. Suffice to say, my time with Nintendo’s new hardware and the latest Zelda game have been enormously positive. (I’ll have much more to say about both when their respective embargoes lift.)
And yet here we are: Short of waiting in line at a GameStop, I have no way of actually getting my greedy paws on a Switch of my own. Neither can countless others. The specter of the always-in-too-short-supply NES Classic Edition is looming rather large this close to launch.
This raises a number of questions.
First of all, is this an intentional marketing strategy on Nintendo’s part?
That’s certainly what appeared to be the case with the mini NES Classic Edition. Manufactured scarcity is when a company restricts the flow of a product to consumers to create the illusion of high demand, increasing real demand by making a product look so desirable that it’s already sold out. That worked well with the NES Classic Edition, which inspired headlines, lines, and fights in lines in the wee hours of the morning at retailers around the country, selling over 1.5 million units.
So is Nintendo playing the same card twice? Actually more than twice given this is a strategy that the Japanese game maker has used in the past time and time again. It’s a strategy used often in the toy business, but less commonly in video games. Nintendo straddles both those industries.
Which brings us to the second question: If the pre-order shortages are part of a marketing plan, will it work? And if so, can we really blame Nintendo for doing it? After all, any gamers need the Switch to succeed almost as bad as Nintendo does.
The worst thing for a video consumer is buying a video game console that doesn’t sell well, because that means you’ll have fewer games, less support, and a shorter console lifespan. That sounds familiar because that’s the story of the Wii U, which had some great titles, but ended up with too little content and almost no third party support. Anything to avoid a similar fate for the Switch may be worthwhile for Nintendo fans including, perhaps ironically, the inability to actually buy one at launch.
Of course, this could also backfire. People could lose interest or change their mind about buying a Switch. Zelda is a major release, but it may not be enough of a draw for many consumers since there aren’t that many other big draws at launch. (See a list of the games coming out on the Switch here.)
Some may stick to the Wii U version of Breath of the Wild instead of buying a Switch for the game. Word of mouth may not spread as fast with fewer consoles in the public’s hands. Hype-filled headlines may not make up the difference.
I think that last point is especially important given the Switch’s mobility. You can take the system out and about, over to a friend’s or a family dinner. We did this last night and played 1-2 Switch with my family. It was a lot of fun. Everyone there was really impressed and had a great time. That’s how positive word of mouth can spread with the Switch, not just via mouth but via experience.
It’s easy to get the Switch out in front of people, which in turn can help drive curiosity and interest in the system. Every single missed Switch sale at launch represents a potential missed opportunity to get the console out in front of other consumers.
I’m not sure there’s a right or wrong answer here. We don’t know if this is Nintendo simply playing it safe and not having enough product ready in time or a planned shortage or whether miraculously stock will replenish just in the nick of time. It’s very difficult to say whether one strategy or the other is better. Personally, I think companies should do everything in their power to create happy customers.
Not being able to buy a product isn’t a very great way to inspire happiness. After all, Nintendo of America chief Reggie Fils-Aime told Wired that this wouldn’t be a repeat of the NES Classic Edition and there wouldn’t be shortages of the Switch.
Pre-orders are a great way to gauge interest in something like this, and given how fast pre-orders sold out, I’m a little surprised that we haven’t had a big announcement about a new round of pre-orders yet.
I’ve asked Nintendo if they have any idea when pre-orders will be available and will update this post with any response I receive. For the time being, I remain worried that many gamers will not be able to get their hands on this hardware, and that’s a real shame. It’s a great piece of tech.
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