Last week's sudden announcement that Nintendo was discontinuing production of the NES Mini, its breakout novelty item that remains in high demand, was confounding. Does Nintendo hate money, or its fans, or both? The anger reached a fever pitch, partly because it was so poorly explained. Nintendo merely said it was never meant to be an ongoing product and that was that. But a new report, suggesting that Nintendo is preparing to roll out a SNES Mini, sheds a new light on that revelation from last week.
First, the details. Sources tell Eurogamer that the SNES Mini would be a microconsole version of Nintendo's 16-bit system, and ready for release by Christmas of this year. It would retain a similar plug-and-play setup, and come loaded with some selection of the most popular games from the Super NES era. That would presumably include Nintendo's first-party classics like Super Mario World, A Link to the Past, and Super Metroid, along with a smattering of third-party standouts.
The report also suggests that the SNES Mini is one major reason the NES Mini was discontinued. Not because Nintendo had a sudden change of heart, but because this was always the plan. Eurogamer says the NES Mini wasn't "given a reprieve." That is, discontinuation was always the plan and Nintendo didn't feel the need to change it.
So what can we conclude from all this?
For one, if this report turns out to be true, it explains why Nintendo's messaging around the discontinuation was so strange and insufficient. The company probably never expected the NES Mini to still be in such high demand this many months later, but it also couldn't explain the full reason or risk spoiling a surprise for E3.
Functionally, it makes sense that Nintendo would use whatever production facitlities had been producing NES Minis to start up production of the SNES Mini instead. And while the NES Mini was a surprising success, it's unlikely that it was so successful to justify opening more production facilities to make both simultaneously. Nintendo likely had to choose one or the other, so it stuck with its plan to launch a new novelty mini-console this holiday.
Further, starting production before announcement is necessary to have any hope of matching demand this time around. That left Nintendo in the unenviable position of being forced to announce the NES Mini discontinuation now, before consumers naturally noticed that restocks simply weren't coming.
All of this created a perfect storm in which Nintendo could have made a reasonable decision to discontinue the NES Mini, but couldn't explain that decision way that was satisfying or even sensible. If this report holds muster, it casts a different light on last week entirely, and we can safely say Nintendo isn't just foolishly throwing away a moneymaker. It's preparing a different moneymaker.
Or maybe it just hates money.