No one does things more strangely than Nintendo. In an ambush Mario Direct this morning, the 35th birthday of the world’s worst plumber was celebrated with all manner of surprise announcements. The most surprising feature of all being that two of the products would be time limited.
Both the triple-pack of remastered Super Mario 3D All-Stars, and the absolutely bonkers Super Mario 35 battle royale-cum-Tetris 99, are going on sale this year, and then going off sale again next March. The company is so renowned for doing things differently from everyone else that it’s almost too easy to dismiss this and move on. But no, wait a second. They’re going to make (or port) games, and then take them off sale after five months? That’s… that makes no sense whatsoever.
While Nintendo certainly don’t take kindly to accusations that they might just perhaps somewhat under-provide when it comes to available hardware stock, it’s not exactly controversial to suggest it might be true. With every new piece of (utterly brilliant) hardware they create, having enough of them to sell to the people who want them always seems to be a problem. From the immediate selling out of the Wii, to the ridiculous lack of 3DS stock, to ongoing issues with Switch availability since its launch, you’d think someone at the firm would have maybe looked to address the supply chain problems by now. Nintendo routinely issues statements denying the intentionality of stock shortages, yet never seems to get on top of it. Hmmmmm.
So deliberately introducing scarcity to software as well seems just utterly bizarre. Especially when it applies to digital versions of games, as well as the plastic boxes your grandparents can tell you about. Because here’s the thing about digital versions: there are infinity of them.
You could make a sort of back-breaking argument for Super Mario 35’s time-limited nature. The batshit concept seems like it’s been created uniquely to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the odd-job brothers, and being digital only they can try to sell it as an “event” rather than a “product”. There’s no actually good reason for that of course — if it’s good, and it’s worth playing, it’ll be worth playing as much in October 2020 as it would be in April 2021. Sure, such multiplayer efforts have peaks and tails, and maybe they don’t foresee it becoming an international esport extravaganza. But it doesn’t exactly scream confidence in the idea if they think no one will want to carry on post March 31st.
But there’s simply nothing that can explain taking Super Mario 3D All-Stars off sale. It’s three games otherwise unavailable on the Switch, spread across three previous consoles none of which can be purchased today, and only one of them vaguely playable in emulation. On top of that, they’re each upgraded for the Switch, with improved resolutions (and with Galaxy, presumably completely reworked controls). This is the only readily available way to play these games today, and they’re unique versions designed for the current-gen Nintendo console. So why in all holy hell would you then take that away from players? Who benefits?
It’s certainly not the players. But of course it is the publisher. Nintendo stands to gain by forcing people to purchase at full price, with no hope of seeing a rare first-party sale price offered at any point during its existence, far less chance of finding the game available pre-owned in any remaining stores, and no waiting it out to see if it gets a reduction in the future. Is that their motivation here? To create a completely artificial scarcity, remove something infinitely duplicable from sale for no other reason than to pressure their customers? We reached out to Nintendo to find out, but there was no immediate response.
Maybe there will be yet another surprise come next April. Perhaps they’ll put all three up for sale individually? Although pretty much any approach to this will only serve to further piss off those who felt the need to buy it ahead of such changes. Knowing Nintendo they’ll do something even more inexplicable that only their imaginations could divine.