ANALYSIS: My saga on how I was able to purchase an SNES Classic Edition

A frantic refresh didn’t help grab a Super NES Classic Edition. Photo by John Soltes.

Nothing gets the pulse racing like a video-game preorder bonanza. That’s exactly what occurred Tuesday, Aug. 22 when retailers began pre-sales of Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Super NES or SNES, for short) Classic Edition. There was a lot of heartbreak for Nintendo devotees and more than a few angry Tweets.

Somehow I was able to snag one, but it took a day of trying.

First off, I knew that the pre-sales were set to begin at the end of August. That much could be gleaned weeks ago, but the actual date of sale was elusive. As the days ticked by in the month, I began to wonder how much longer could it be.

A similar mad rush occurred last year when Nintendo released its Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) Classic Edition. That one sold out and remains tough to come by, so the anticipation for the Super edition seemed almost palpable.

The business for nostalgia is quite high, with Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Tetris, Final Fantasy and other franchises still holding a firm place in gamers’ hearts. These Classic Editions allow both casual and dedicated gamers to relive the olden days of the 1980s and 1990s (depending on the console) without the trappings of those bygone eras. Yes, that means these new editions won’t pause mid-game, requiring a reset and blow of air on the cartridge. The most popular games are preprogrammed on the NES and Super NES Classic Editions, and they are broadcast in wondrous High Definition. The images still retain their charm on my NES Classic.

Plus, there’s the added bonus of the Super NES: Star Fox 2 will be released with the console. This is a rare unreleased game that will surely be a highlight.

I woke up Tuesday, Aug. 22 with news on Twitter that I had missed the Amazon and Best Buy pre-sales in the early morning hours. In the words of Homer Simpson: “D’oh!”

That left Target, Walmart, GameStop and Toys “R” Us — I think. It’s always hard to figure out the retailers, who has what and what they’re planning to offer.

I refreshed all day long on the landing pages for each of these retailers. I joined a chorus of fellow gamers on Twitter, trying my best to figure out strategies. Who would be first to release the consoles? Did Walmart just change its landing page design? Will Amazon and Best Buy release more? Wait, is that rumor true about a person whose cousin talked to a friend who sent a carrier pigeon to a faraway GameStop and somehow found the golden answer?

On social media, most #SNESClassic searches resulted in stories of woe. There were few successes and more well-meaning critiques of not knowing anything about sites, times, numbers, etc. There was a community of gamers frustrated yet exhilarated.

Rather than continue with the refreshing and reading of Twitter rants, in the morning hours, I made a move that almost proved foolish. I headed 20 minutes away from my house to a local GameStop. There was almost no one in the store, and so I headed to the cashier and asked a simple question: “Are you pre-selling SNES Classic?”

The answer was surprising: “Let me check,” or something to that effect. After several minutes of checking the system, the answer was “No,” at least for now.

I headed home, almost certain that the Internet pre-sales had happened in my absence. They had not.

At 1 p.m. EST, everything changed. I refreshed the Walmart website, and the page turned into a pre-sale image. I quickly — with lightning speed — added a console to my cart. Could this be for real? I went through the process of logging into my account and providing the necessary details, and right before the promised land of final checkout, I received that dreaded message. The item in my cart was no longer there. The item was now sold out. I looked at my clock. It had hardly registered one minute.

I took to Twitter to see if I was alone. I wasn’t.

Hope was not lost. I kept refreshing on Target, Toys “R” Us (homepage only) and GameStop. Please, please, let me grab an SNES Classic Edition.

A few minutes later, the Target page featured a pre-sale image. I added the item to my cart and went through the entire process again. This was either going to go the way of Walmart, or it just might work.

It didn’t. I made it to the final stop, with the item in my cart, and then all of a sudden, I was notified the cart was empty. The preorder button just as quickly offered a pop-up image: “This item is now out of stock.”

I was down to GameStop and Toys “R” Us. I put my money on GameStop, but my Google Chrome browser wouldn’t open up the company’s homepage. Obviously, I was not the only one hoping against hope for an SNES pre-sale.

I made my second bold move of the day. That morning trek to GameStop had me wondering whether the retail store would offer some pre-sales in person. I called a different GameStop, one a little closer than the morning one. They answered and said to come down to the store. There was a line and no guarantees.

The prospect of hanging out in a store for a few hours seemed more appetizing than the refresh game I was playing at home. It was the draw of community that brought me there.

I headed to the store, entered the front door, expecting to be turned away or at least being asked to join the end of a long line.

Neither was the case. In fact, there were only four or five people in front of me. I asked if they had SNES Classic Editions for pre-sale, and they answered positively. They said just hang out; the computer was churning quite slow, but it appeared the store would have some.

As each person in front of me met with success, my spirits began to rise. By the time I made it to the front of the line, only about 15 minutes after first entering, I was asked for my name, address, phone number and email.

I spoke with a faint voice, almost like I was lying to the police or my parents. Could this be true? Will a large error message suddenly appear and say there was no system in my cart anymore?

My information was taken. I was told the final price (a bundle with the console and strategy guide, mailed to my home), and my credit card was charged.

Holy smokes, Batman! I’m getting a Super NES Classic Edition at retail price! I am gripping my receipt and confirmation page like they were family heirlooms.

To all those who have similar success stories, congratulations. Leave your story in the comments field below.

To all those who faced refresh failure, I feel for you. I’m usually on the losing end of these equations, so I wish you the very best in securing a console, either through pre-sale or on the day of.

To Nintendo, thank you for never doubting a gamer’s love for nostalgia.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications.

E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *