Last week, cheers of jubilation went around the internet as Nintendo finally announced that the long-rumoured collection of classic 3D Mario games, coming on 18th September. However, spirits were dampened for some when they noticed an odd detail about Super Mario 3D All-Stars: it will be a limited-time release.
That's right, the collection--both physical and digital--will go back into Nintendo's vault after six months. Come 1st April 2021, you'll only be able to download it if you've purchased it before that date. The physical run will be similarly limited, although exactly how long stocks will last is anyone's guess.
It's a puzzling move, although we're sure Nintendo's accountants are grinning at their pre-orders numbers right now. "Limited-time" availability drives consumers to read up on the game, get informed and--crucially--to put money down sooner rather than later for fear of missing out. Let's face it, if there was ever a collection of gaming classics you were likely to buy sight unseen, it's probably this one.
Limited-time releases are nothing new (all runs of physical games are essentially 'limited' in nature, just over a longer term - companies don't pump out re-prints forever), but for first-party digital releases it's a relatively fresh concept. We regularly see games disappear from digital storefronts for a variety of reasons, but big games that are announced as limited-time experiences are far less common.
Earlier this year Nintendo put out Jump Rope Challenge, a free-to-download little exercise 'app' that launched as a limited-time release (it's leaving the Switch eShop at the end of September). It seems odd to remove it, but as a tiny (and free) experiment, it's unlikely to be missed in the grand scheme of things. It's a fun curio, but no-one is going to rush out and buy a Switch to play Jump Rope Challenge.
Assuming Super Mario Bros. 35 is half as good as Nintendo Switch Online exclusive Tetris 99, removing it from the service after six months is surely counterproductive.
Likewise, Super Mario Bros. 35 probably won't convince people to pick up a Switch if they haven't already, which makes its limited-time nature all the more perplexing. Nintendo Switch Online is an ongoing subscription service that Nintendo wishes bolster with added value over time. Assuming Super Mario Bros. 35 is half as good as NSO exclusive Tetris 99, removing it from the service after six months is surely counterproductive.
Limiting availability of the 3D Mario collection, though, arguably makes more sense from Nintendo's perspective considering the current climate. As we wrote when discussing the absence of Super Mario Galaxy 2 from the compilation, putting a time limit on the purchase guarantees sales over the Holiday 2020 period. Switch might be flying off shelves as quickly as they're manufactured, but Nintendo will soon be facing competition from two brand-new shiny consoles.
Now, Switch is a fantastic machine and a very different proposition to the hardware Sony or Microsoft are offering, but people (and gamers especially) like shiny new things. Even with a shocking lack of first-party launch titles for Xbox Series X/S in November, Microsoft has assembled a compelling, affordable next-gen package to tempt gamers over the winter. Throw in a precarious economy, diminished consumer spending, and a home-bound audience and it's little wonder companies are resorting to unconventional tactics to secure your disposable cash.
If it's not simply going to concede victory to the new consoles this Holiday season, Nintendo has to get scrappy and make full use of its software arsenal and hardware appeal. Fortnite hardware bundles are surefire sellers, and the Mario brand is being put to use in a strategy that offers high reward immediately without much risk, besides the bad taste it leaves in some players' mouths.
feelings of manipulation and fear-mongering brought about by 'limited-time' availability tend to evoke other adjectives from players: words like 'dirty', 'shady' and 'underhanded'
It's entirely Nintendo's right to sell its games in the manner of its choosing; nobody's 'owed' or entitled to anything. We're convinced Nintendo will sell the 3D Mario games individually on the Switch eShop once this collection expires--why leave money on the table when the work has been done and the games are quite literally sitting on the company servers already?--but the feelings of manipulation and fear-mongering brought about by 'limited-time' availability tend to evoke other adjectives from players: words like 'dirty', 'shady' and 'underhanded'. There's also the argument that limiting accessibility to the official product will drive keen fans to investigate other legally dubious (though very impressive) avenues to play those games, surely the very opposite of the intended result.
Ultimately, Nintendo is in the business of making money and will charge as much as it believes the market can handle, and try any tactic it believes will yield maximum long-tail profit. It's hard to shake the feeling, though, Nintendo is playing a new game with this approach, and we're not sure we're down with it.
That's enough from us, though - we want to hear your thoughts on this sales tactic. Let us know by answering the poll questions below:
Just a case of Nintendo being Nintendo? Or is this a strategy you think we'll see more of in the future? Feel free to let us know your opinions in more detail with a comment below.