"Thank you for calling GameStop, where we don't have the NES Classic in stock, how can I help you?"
Retailers around the country that opened their doors this morning with Nintendo’s NES Classic on hand faced long lines and lots of phone calls. But none seemed to have nearly enough stock to satisfy the consumer demand.
Polygon reporters who spoke with more than two dozen stores in New York, Ohio, California, Connecticut and Illinois found that every location sold out within minutes, whether they had half a dozen or 50 of the mini-consoles when they opened their doors.
We spoke with employees at GameStop, Toys R Us, Best Buy and Target stores. The Nintendo World Store in New York City was the one exception among the retailers we spoke with, holding onto stock into the late morning. By the afternoon, though, the store was no longer answering the phone.
Retailers were so inundated with callers that some stores, like a GameStop in Brooklyn, New York, took to immediately telling people they were out of stock when answering the phone.
One employee told a reporter that their store handed out tickets to the people waiting outside for the available consoles, but that the practice still didn’t stop some from standing in line, just in case.
Often, the line of people who waited hours for a chance to buy the console far exceeded the supply. Sometimes, according to retailers we spoke to, there were as few as 10 consoles for 40 people waiting.
Online retailers didn’t fare much better.
GameStop, Walmart, Newegg and Best Buy either sold out immediately or didn’t allow customers to buy the product online.
Toys R Us confirmed to Polygon that the company sold out nationwide. Shortly thereafter, the company removed the NES Classic listing from its website.
A GameStop spokesperson said that the chain, which wasn’t selling the NES Classic online, had a very limited number remaining as of 4 p.m. ET. The spokesperson declined to say how many the company received nationwide but, as with Toys R Us, said it would have more for the holidays.
Amazon seemed to be the last chance for someone to buy an NES Classic on launch day in the U.S. The retailer held its stock until 5 p.m. While the official Amazon Video Games Twitter account noted that the retailer had sold out by 5:13 p.m., it appeared stock had run dry in under three minutes.
The site also struggled to keep up with anxious shoppers, sometimes showing availability when there was none or giving customers error messages.
Those hoping to land the NES Classic on Friday were not pleased with the site’s technical glitches.
@amazongames clicked add to cart soon as it went up still screwed. Kept telling me it was empty— Space Explorer Dust (@Chaoskiller2000) November 11, 2016
@amazongames You did a really poor job of that. I'd expect a lot more from a company like yours.— Adam Cathro (@adamcathro) November 11, 2016
Earlier in the day, Nintendo took to Twitter itself to try and ease fears that the console wasn’t going to return in time for the holidays.
The Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition system is a hot item, and we are working hard to keep up with consumer demand. 1/3— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) November 11, 2016
There will be a steady flow of additional systems through the holiday shopping season and into the new year. 2/3— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) November 11, 2016
Please contact your local retailers to check availability. A selection of participating retailers can be found @ https://t.co/rMbd6Wacpi 3/3— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) November 11, 2016
There was one group of people seemingly delighted with the outcome. The NES Classic was pulling in top dollar on eBay, with completed sales as high as $500 for the $60 item. Third-party listings for the $10 controller on Amazon averaged $250 a pop.