Nintendo’s Mini NES Classic Edition is one of the hottest tech items this Christmas and it’s been nearly impossible to find as a result. Now, thanks to a new report, we have an idea just how many consoles Nintendo has sold: Nearly 200,000 Classic NES systems thus far in America alone. The Wii U is estimated to have sold just 220,000 units in the last six months, which means a 30-year-old game console is blowing out Nintendo’s most recent living room platform. Nintendo is fond of arguing that specs alone don’t make great games, but the company probably didn’t plan to make that point in quite such dramatic fashion.
VentureBeat spoke to NPD, which confirmed that the Classic NES is leading the retro game market, while Google reported that the NES Classic Edition is the most googled console of the year. Nintendo is reportedly pushing to build more consoles, but the platform is even more popular in Japan than it is here, with an estimated 261,000 units selling in Japan the console’s first week. At this rate, a strong December could push the Classic NES’ global sales over the Wii U’s entire yearly sales (currently estimated at 1.3 million devices for all of 2016).
Given the enormous demand for the platform it’s not clear why Nintendo didn’t build a few more of them or ramp up production more quickly. Maybe Nintendo was afraid of taking momentum away from Switch, or didn’t anticipate how many people might want a retro version of its original console, but it’s clear the nostalgia market for its devices is enormous. It’s also easy to see what the company will likely do over the next four years: The SNES, Nintendo 64, the entire GameBoy lineup — all of these are ripe for commercialization in similar efforts, probably with one system rolling out each holiday. Nintendo has announced no such plans and is probably mostly focused on getting the Switch out the door, but the company would be stupid to ignore the potential of consoles like this.
That said, the more recent the systems Nintendo tries to mine for inclusion in programs like this, the trickier the optics will be. Customers are willing to buy a $ 60 NES with 30 preloaded games, but if Nintendo moves to do the same with other platforms customers are eventually going to want things like updates or the option to purchase additional titles. We’ll have to wait and see how Nintendo balances things here — it could add some capabilities to platforms that didn’t originally ship with them. The NES Classic uses a quad-core ARM chip, after all, which wasn’t exactly a standard feature on the original platform.
Read our sister site PCMag’s full review of the NES Classic Edition.