On January 14, Nintendo announced a limited-edition Majora's Mask-themed gold New 3DS XL. Since then, chaos has ruled humanity. Food is scarce. Most spend their days staying inside and huddling with their loved ones. Gangs of scalpers roam the streets to prey on hapless consumers who like shiny things.
Well, at least it feels that way. Never in my life have I seen people get as worked up over a piece of video game hardware as they have over this limited 3DS, partially because it's a lovely, nostalgia-tickling system, and partially because Nintendo and its retail partners have totally bungled the launch, facilitating scalper greed and bumming out tons of Zelda-loving gamers.
Over the past month, I've been closely monitoring availability of the Majora's 3DS, tracking the system's availability in an ongoing Kotaku post that has somehow racked up close to three million pageviews. (Told you people were workedup.) And what I've seen is just a mess. Big retailers have been opening and cancelling pre-orders seemingly on a whim, while eBay scalpers make a mint off pre-orders they might not actually have. For a month now, interested customers have had to stay glued to their monitors in hopes that they'd get lucky and see an opportunity before it was too late. And Nintendo has communicated absolutely nothing. (We've asked them a few times to talk about this.)
This launch has been a disaster since the beginning, when pre-orders first opened at GameStop and sold out in about half an hour. (Unlucky customers who were typing in their credit card information when the system sold out, myself included, found themselves staring at empty carts when they tried to pay.) Some GameStops then started taking in-store orders, but they sold out before West Coast outlets even had time to open.
As other retailers started taking pre-orders, the bungles just got worse. On January 14 — announcement day — Best Buy took a whole bunch of orders for about an hour. A few days later, they realised that they had oversold — or maybe Nintendo just didn't give them a big enough supply — so they cancelled for anyone who had purchased more than one system. And a few days after that, the retailer still didn't have enough 3DSes, so they cancelled a ton of legitimate orders, offering $US50 gift cards as penance.
What's notable here is the lack of communication from both Nintendo and Best Buy. If those people had known their pre-orders might be cancelled, maybe they would have had time to find the system elsewhere. And if Nintendo had made even the slightest bit of effort to talk about how many copies were available, where they'd be for sale, and when pre-orders would be open, maybe so many shoppers wouldn't feel so screwed.
Perhaps the worst screw-up belonged to the folks at Target. On January 22, Target randomly opened pre-orders at around 3am ET with no warning whatsoever, either not realising or not caring that they'd sell out in minutes... which they did. Then, the retailer re-opened online orders on February 13 — likely by mistake, because they had to immediately cancel a whole bunch of those orders. Their "sorry we screwed up" gift? $US15 gift cards — $US35 less than what Best Buy had to offer.
So if you wanted one of these fancy gold systems, and you lucked into A) getting a pre-order and B) not suddenly seeing it get cancelled, congratulations. To the rest of you... well, sorry. Corporations suck.