I woke up early today to make sure I could snag an Analogue Pocket when preorders for the long-awaited handheld went live at 8 a.m. PST. Eight minutes past 8, Analogue’s online shop informed me it had completely sold out. I didn’t even get to enter payment information, and I clearly wasn’t the only one disappointed.
Seattle-based manufacturer Analogue made a name for itself producing aesthetically beautiful, retro-compatible consoles that do a great job of displaying old-school games on today’s high-definition televisions. As such, the Analogue Pocket was in high demand from the moment it was announced in 2019. The system — with its cutting-edge 1600×1440 display, built-in support for Game Boy, Game Boy Colour, Game Boy Advance, and adapters for Game Gear, Neo Geo Pocket Colour, and Atari Lynx cartridges — has been touted as the Cadillac of retro handhelds.
A lot of the excitement surrounding the Analogue Pocket has to do with how it plays all these games. There’s no emulation involved. Instead, the high-end portable includes two FPGA (field-programmable gate array) chips that can be configured to reproduce the handheld systems in question on a hardware level, an approach which has some exciting advantages over the much more common practice of software emulation. This same technology has been used to great effect in Analogue’s modernised takes on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo, and Sega Genesis, even if the products themselves have been hard to get hold of at times due to low manufacturing numbers.
Which leads us to today’s preorder circus. The full timeline can be tracked easily through websites like Twitter and ResetEra, where messages of excitement about the impending preorder window quickly turn to frustration and anger as folks begin to realise they won’t actually be able to purchase an Analogue Pocket. In my case, I was able to easily add the handheld (in black, of course) and a dock for HDMI output to my cart and enter my address before being met with a gut-wrenching loading icon as the website tried to calculate shipping costs, which a cursory perusal of social media shows was a common problem.
Pocket pre-orders are sold out. We will be producing more and do our best to meet demand during this unfortunate global state of affairs.— Analogue (@analogue) August 3, 2020
Signup at https://t.co/E3wd4IdMbE to be notified by email when we are able to make Pocket + accessories available again. pic.twitter.com/K3is9xG5uk
My editor told me hers had eventually gone through, so I waited. And waited. And waited. Then the website timed out. After reloading, I found that I was back on the Analogue Pocket product page with an empty shopping cart. I re-added my two items, this time with a hard case and screen protector, and went to check out again, only to finally be told that the handheld and all its accessories were sold out.
In retrospect, it’s funny to be upset that I wasn’t able to spend over $US300 ($422) on a boutique electronic, but I nevertheless vented some of my frustration in a snippy tweet and got ready to start the work day. But many other people across the Internet had similarly unhappy experiences. Popular games forum ResetEra offers a representative sample:
“So fucking gutted that they’re already out of stock,” said ResetEra user Liam Allen-Miller.
“These guys really underestimated demand,” added Steeped in a Sea of Games. “Holy shit.”
“I’m a little concerned about the future of buying their products,” said TrojanAg. “It seems like the scalpers have caught wind of them and are only going to make things more difficult.”
Analogue limited preorders to just two units per person, but that didn’t stop folks looking to make a quick buck from securing what they could and putting the now sold-out items on eBay with exorbitant markups. While this sort of behaviour is par for the course when it comes to in-demand products, it only added fuel to the fire for folks already upset at the process.
Look, I can’t fault Analogue here. I don’t know the intricacies of online commerce, but I do know that websites often buckle under load for any number of reasons. And with covid-19 still on the warpath, manufacturing has to be an absolute clusterfuck these days. Sure, I wasn’t able to get the usual rush of serotonin these kinds of purchases induce in my capitalism-warped brain, but I’m sure the Analogue Pocket will be available at some point down the line.
As you can tell, I’ve mostly talked myself down from the ledge. Even Elijah Wood couldn’t get one! In the meantime, I should probably start looking for more old handheld games to play on this thing before those start going up in price, too.