Nostalgia vs. The Supply Chain: An Unlikely Resurgence of Classic Games

Just a few weeks before the 3DS would celebrate its eleventh anniversary, Nintendo announced plans to shut down its 3DS and Wii U eShops next March, leaving gamers scrambling for what to do when they can no longer make purchases in the eShop.

This decision spells bad news for gamers who dug out their older consoles and games to entertain themselves in lockdown, fueling a nostalgia kick that has not subsided. Those who didn’t have old games packed away turned to second-hand sellers.

The pandemic changed many facets of daily life: where we work, how we interact with our fellow man, and what we do to protect ourselves. But, on the lighter side, it also changed the way we game.

Ongoing supply chain issues causing a shortage of new games and consoles have also contributed to the risk in the old console and game purchases like the Wii U.

Just How Big Was the Spike in Old Games?

According to ReCommerce expert Decluttr, between March 2020 and March 2022, sales of Wii units increased by 222% vs. the previous two years, which suggests that these consoles have made their comeback despite accessibility barriers.

Some of the most popular games purchased on the Decluttr store throughout this period include Wii Fit Plus and Big Brain Academy Wii Degree. So while the eShops may be shutting down, throwback gamers won’t need to worry if they can continue to purchase these games physically from Decluttr.

Nintendo said both online stores will close their digital doors forever in March 2023.

Popular games like Attack of the Friday Monsters, Pushmo, and Pokémon Yellow won’t be playable again unless fans can find a second-hand and potentially more expensive physical copy.

What Else Do the Fans Have To Say?

A similar decision was made by rival Sony last year when they announced a plan to shut down eShops for the PS3 and Vita but reversed their decision after receiving customer backlash. “It’s clear that we made the wrong decision here,” admitted Jim Ryan, the president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment.

Fans were critical and expressed disappointment that some less popular games will be lost forever, while more successful properties such as Zelda will continue to thrive on different gaming platforms. One fan, Jon Cartwright, took to Twitter to ask, “Can we bully you until you don’t do this like Sony?”

With only 13% of the population not gaming, Nintendo’s decision might cause some loyal fans to jump ship to platforms that cater to their needs.

Is Game Preservation a Priority for Nintendo?

The Video Game History Foundation expressed some understanding of Nintendo’s perspective but was sure to add, “What we don’t understand is what path Nintendo expects its fans to take, should they wish to play these games in the future.”

Outside of speculative financial concerns, the VGHF said, “Preventing institutional work to preserve these titles on top of that is actively destructive to video game history.”

Although the eShop won’t officially shut down until next year, Nintendo will begin a slow shut down as early as this spring. On May 23, users will no longer be able to use a credit card to add funds to an account in the eShops. On August 29, users will no longer be able to use a Nintendo eShop card to add funds.

Decluttr also tracked spikes in sales of other gaming devices, specifically the Xbox 360, which saw a 592% increase in sales from March 2020 to March 2022. They also noticed significant increases in sales for Xbox One (244%), Sony PS3 (306%), and Sony PS4 (259%) during the same period.

The average sale price of these units also increased. Again, the Xbox 360 was the leader, with a 61% increase in value. Not far behind was the Xbox One (55%), Sony PS3 (25%), and Sony PS4 (25%).

Nostalgia worked together with supply chain issues to create a perfect storm of old game mania. As a result, in these two years, the total sales of old consoles were up 308% from the previous two-year cycle.

What remains to be seen is how these numbers will change as manufacturers return to pre-pandemic production levels.

According to Nintendo, their decision was “part of the natural life cycle for any product line as it becomes less used by consumers over time.” If the success of Decluttr tells us anything, it’s that customers are willing to pay for these products, and sticking to this decision could feel like a betrayal to all those loyal Nintendo supporters.

It’s been almost two months since their decision, and Nintendo has yet to respond to the backlash from its customer base. If Sony bowed to the pressure of fan displeasure, Nintendo might do the same. However, as we near the first stage of their shutdown, that wish might be just a pipe dream.

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Justin McDevitt is a playwright and essayist from New York City. His latest play HAUNT ME had its first public reading at Theater for the New City in September. He is a contributor for RUE MORGUE where he lends a queer eye to horror cinema in his column STAB ME GENTLY.