Title says it all, doesn’t it? With the recent announcement that Nintendo was discontinuing the NES Mini, quite a few gamers and commentators have rightfully derided the decision. The price of a NES Mini on the secondhand market has skyrocketed since the unit’s release and can only be expected to go higher now. Not only that, Nintendo was selling these things as quick as they could ship them which comes after a long streak of fiscal reports of losing money. The question that nearly everyone wanted to know was why Nintendo stopped production, and there were a few answers. I’m going to look at the most common answer for this, and explain why this would be a terribly stupid reason if true.
The most widely stated reason is the easy access to hacks for the NES Mini. Full disclosure: I have mine hacked with extra games and I have nothing against doing so. It’s your device, you paid for it, so you can modify it as you wish for your own usage. To me, this is worst reason Nintendo could have for cancelling such a profitable item. They’ve been dealing with this for years on all of their other offerings. Both the DS and 3DS had a slew of flash carts that allowed you to easily pirate games, and 3DS homebrewers have been consistently allowing for non-Nintendo approved software to run on 3DS hardware*. The Wii had homebrew and indeed piracy on it for the entire lifespan of the console, and Wii-U hacks are becoming popular. The Switch doesn’t currently have a released hack but there’s some evidence of one forming. All of this comes together to prove Nintendo has no reason to discontinue for the reason of hacking.
What really puts the nail in the coffin of this argument is that a lot of the reason why NES Mini hacking became popular is due to Nintendo’s terrible planning. The NES Mini was originally assumed to be a stripped down Wii or Wii-U due to the Classic Controller ports and playing the Virtual Console releases of the games. Instead, they released what is essentially a Linux based set top box which made hacking it MUCH more simple. Sure, the Wii and the Wii-U have been hacked, but most of their hacks require loading a game which a crippled version wouldn’t allow. Instead, by releasing a Linux box that would not allow the purchase or even the loading of extra games, Nintendo created both a demand and a fairly easy way to achieve it.
All Nintendo had to do was give NES Mini owners a way to purchase games to increase the library on the unit and they’d have little trouble with piracy. Instead, they did the normal Nintendo thing of not thinking beyond “this is how we want things to be” and ended up paying for it. If they did indeed discontinue the item just because of piracy, they not only cost themselves millions of dollars from a highly desired product, but they caused their own problem. Instead of listening to consumers, Nintendo assumed they knew the market best and now they have to pay for it.
Obviously this isn’t the only explanation for Nintendo’s pulling the NES Mini off the market, but it’s easily the most common. I hope it’s some kind of manufacturing problem and not just Nintendo showing no grasp of the modern market like they have been for years. I say this as a loyal Nintendo fan, but they make some really stupid decisions. Unfortunately, cancelling the NES Mini will prove to be another mistake.
*This is not a statement equating homebrew with piracy, which many console hackers vehemently oppose. This is merely pointing out that homebrew software on 3DS has existed and will exist for the life of the hardware, which runs counter to the idea of Nintendo stopping NES Mini production as an anti-hacking measure.