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Why is the NES Classic Edition coming back?

Some thoughts on its return

NES Classic Edition photos Michael McWhertor/Polygon

Not yet six months since Nintendo discontinued it, the company is bringing back the NES Classic Edition next year. This is both bizarre and totally reasonable on Nintendo’s part — the hardware sold like hotcakes, even if the company claimed surprise at its popularity.

But why would Nintendo announce this now? Why bring it back at all, if the company was comfortable with the system being a limited-time product? Here are some ideas ... with the caveat that Nintendo never seems to make decisions based on any kind of observable logic.

This was the plan all along

Nintendo did call the NES Classic Edition a “limited-time product” back when it discontinued the system in April. It wouldn’t be the first time that an item advertised as being rare or limited found its way back to shelves.

That thing you loved five years ago? It’s back — for now. It’s a card that companies can play time and time again — look at the McRib — although it’s rare for it to happen this soon after the product is discontinued. Nintendo is making this look like a bumbled reaction to popularity instead of a plan, which makes all those claims of only being able to focus on so much seem even sillier in retrospect.

"Even with that extraordinary level of performance, we understand that people are frustrated about not being able to find the system, and for that we really do apologize," Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime told Time in April, weeks after Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic Edition. "But from our perspective, it's important to recognize where our future is and the key areas that we need to drive. We've got a lot going on right now and we don't have unlimited resources."

Sounds like Nintendo reconsidered its future all of a sudden, then.

Customer complaints made it through

Nintendo has largely operated as it wants, often ignoring fans’ calls for new games or price cuts or features. But the reaction to the NES Classic fiasco has been intense, and overwhelmingly negative. The same can be said of the SNES Classic pre-order debacle.

But something interesting has happened in recent months: We’ve seen the company commit to bringing back beloved series like Metroid. We’ve seen it promise the wholehearted return of other characters, like Kirby and Yoshi. We’ve even seen it coax The Pokémon Company into bringing the Pokémon series to a console for the first time, although there are plenty of other reasons for that.

These aren’t definitive signs that Nintendo is listening, but we have to wonder if the company is starting to reconsider its relationship to consumers.

The SNES Classic Edition proved there’s a market for this

To which we have to say, “No duh.” Just as the NES Classic Edition before it did, the SNES Classic Edition is selling out quickly. Although the system won’t hit retail until Sept. 29, customers pre-ordered the system in great swaths. If you weren’t able to secure yours almost immediately, you were out of luck; pre-release stock ran out in minutes.

Fils-Aime said just yesterday that the company is greatly increasing supply to meet the high demand. It’s an obvious move to us, but one that somehow seems like a new step for Nintendo — as if the early SNES Classic sales took it by surprise.

To respond by not just making more of these systems that are sure to sell a lot and go for way higher prices on reseller sites, but also producing the NES Classic Edition again, seems like Nintendo is picking up on something: People are really into nostalgia. This could be something as simple as Nintendo finally deciding to cash in on a product that everyone seems to want. The fact this seems so remote only proves how weird Nintendo’s reactions to the market tend to be.