Responding to widespread console shortages and accusations of manufacturing demand, Nintendo has increased its Switch orders to the manufacturers. According to DigiTimes, the company will now supply two million systems per month, attempting to reach their shipment goal of 20 million units this year.
Nintendo holds a special place in the heart of just about every gamer on the planet. They’ve made some of the greatest games and consoles of all time, and the industry itself would likely not exist in the way it does today without them. However, over the past few years, the nostalgic ideal of Nintendo has come into conflict with the corporate reality of Nintendo.
Console shortages have plagued the company for the last decade, most notably with the NES classic last year, which prompted Polygon to assert that Nintendo was either underhanded or incompetent. Though with the Switch news today and what appears to be a concerted effort to meet demand for the white-hot SNES Classic, it appears that the company isn’t intentionally screwing customers—they just have trouble adapting to their circumstances.
It began in November 2006, when the Wii became an international phenomenon and sold about six million units in four months. Nintendo’s revenue skyrocketed, but they suddenly found themselves millions of units behind the demand, and as late as holiday season 2007 it was still impossible to get your hands on one. It could be sheer incompetence, but consider that its predecessor, the GameCube, was the worst-selling console of that generation—behind the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and even its predecessor, the N64. Nintendo simply didn’t react to the clear buzz in anticipation of their new console; they created their supply based on previous numbers.
This pattern repeated again with the WiiU. Nintendo, likely anticipating similar sales to the Wii, did a famously poor job with their marketing and software lineup, and the system ended its life as the worst-selling home console in the company’s history. Much like what happened after the GameCube, we would expect to see a console shortage follow, and that’s exactly what we got with the NES Classic and Switch. It probably didn’t help that Nintendo’s stock surprisingly fell after the announcement of the Switch—but rather than adapt based on the immense social media and fan engagement, the company made their decisions based on the opinions of single-minded investors who still didn’t know how much the system would cost or when it would be released.
Nintendo was forced to come out this summer and say that they aren’t faking these shortages to drive up demand. This is likely the case, but it doesn’t excuse the failure of the company to accurately gauge consumer interest in their products. They are clearly capable of meeting the reality of the demand, as evinced by their announcement today. It’s a welcome step into the light for the gaming giant, but they might want to focus on learning a little bit more about what’s going on in their fans’ heads the next time they start manufacturing a new console.