We need to talk about Nintendo’s scalper problem. There have been isolated incidents here and there, but nothing like what we’ve seen ever since Amiibos hit the market.
Wave 1 of the Amiibo figures came to stores last November. At first everyone in the lineup was available, but then Wii Fit Trainer and Villager disappeared and were not restocked. It was discovered Nintendo produced a much smaller number of the Amiibos they figured would not be as popular, with the result that they have become a thousand times MORE popular now that barely anyone can have them. Knowledge of this fact has caused the playing field for Wave 2 to become heavily skewed in favor of scalpers. In one case a man who hated Rosalina set aside $35,000 of his own money to preorder as many Rosalina Amiibos as he could possibly get, just so no one else could have one.
The problem has been amplified with the Majora’s Mask 3DS, which in the two days since its reveal has become the Tickle Me Elmo of the video game market. The main difference is, though, that eventually enough Elmos entered the market to satisfy demand. We have no guarantee Nintendo won’t stop selling the Majora model the second they cease promoting the 3DS release of the game, or even that they’re aware of the frenzy over it at all.
This unawareness causes the panic to rise higher, the hoarding to get more daring and the shortages to be much more severe. Because GameStop takes its reserves in a pool, they sold out of their projected inventory just 15 minutes after the product was revealed. Many potential customers woke up on the West Coast to find the model completely sold out, before any of the GameStops in that region had even opened.
Nintendo has confirmed there will be no second shipment of some Amiibos. Scalpers have completely gobbled up the rarer Wave 2 figures before they even shipped. This problem is worse than Xenoblade Chronicles being held for ransom. Unlike that game, these products will never actually SEE the open market. They’ll never rest on a store shelf and many children will be unaware they even exist. The man with the boxes essentially wins. No Rosalina for you.
Nintendo is allowing this because they’re not paying attention. And they’re not paying attention because these things aren’t happening in Japan.
The problem is the same problem that has sunk many a company, and continues to do so today: CULTURAL DIFFERENCES. Because something works in one country, somebody powerful gets it in his head that the same thing will work somewhere else if handled in the exact same way — and that’s not reality. Cultural differences can be deadly for business when combined with executive arrogance. Sega would still be producing hardware if their American and Japanese branches had not been fighting for years on the proper approach to the US market. Sega of America got to do their own thing for a while and the result was the Genesis. Then Sega of Japan took control and the result was the Saturn. (Which, by the way, did fine in Japan. But the same strategies failed miserably here.)
The problem is not exclusively Japanese. Microsoft can’t sell a single XBox in Japan to save their lives. And we just saw Target take a massive financial bath from their failure to expand into Canada. They took an aggressive American approach to a laid-back Canadian market and flopped hard. Every one of their Canadian branches (and they launched with over 100) will now be shuttered. That is a lot of wasted jobs.
What’s distressing is that after all this time, after thirty entire years since the NES entered America, Nintendo still cannot get a grasp on what their American fans want. They still don’t understand the “GIMME WHAT I WANT NOW” Yankee market is very different from their quiet, reserved homeland one. They continue to underestimate demand for some products, while overestimating the demand for other ones.
This could be solved if the reins were loosened on Nintendo of America. Big N needs to swallow its pride and accept that they need to take advice from Westerners to sell product in Western countries. Reggie uses the Web; he’s likely seen the chaos that’s taken place over the past month, but he can’t do a thing other than be the Japanese mouthpiece.
I realize that’s not a perfect science either. If Nintendo had listened to the fans in 2002 Wind Waker would have never been made. But a lot of money is being lost and a lot of mistakes are being made, and it’s just going to keep going on, the way it always has, if cultural differences continue to be ignored. The thoughts and feelings of all Nintendo fans need to be taken into consideration — not just the ones in Tokyo.