It’s 3:30 AM where I am, at time of writing. Normally I don’t wake up then hop on to write an article, but this time’s a little different. When I woke up, I discovered that Nintendo made an announcement on their YouTube channel two hours ago.
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon and the Blade of Light, the very first Fire Emblem title released in Japan 30 years ago, is finally coming to the west.
And that’s great! That is, honestly, amazing – it’s fully localised for English, it has new features, and hey, even a special edition. And that’s what I’d love to be talking about.
But I won’t be. Because I happened to notice the comment made on the video.
A feeling of dread filled me. ‘Surely not’, I thought, as I poured through the video, the description, and finally, the official web page. But sure enough, hidden right at the bottom so as to not detract from the announcement, lay this: “Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light will only be available for a limited time.”
Ok. Nintendo. I love you. I love your games – especially Fire Emblem. But what, may I ask, in the ever lasting fuck is this, exactly?
When Super Mario 3D All-Stars first released, and it was revealed to be a limited time only, there were jokes about the company doing what Disney did with its film properties in the 80’s and 90’s. Back then, Disney would re-release classic films only for a limited time, in order to create artificial scarcity. They pretended this added value to the product, and called the practice of dictating customer supply ‘The Disney Vault’; “Get it now, before it goes back into the vault, and you have to wait a decade for another shot.”
It was bad business practice, and all it did was make Disney movies prohibitively inaccessible. Disney stopped doing it in the 00’s with the rise of the Internet, as increasing ease of access – either via piracy or streaming – made the tactic moot. And yet, for some reason, Nintendo seems to feel like it’s appropriate to ape this practice now, in 2020.
The dangers of Nintendo artificially curating access to its products is readily apparent. It’ll cause scarcity that will ultimately benefit scalpers – it’s already happened with Amiibo; it’ll happen with games. It’ll lock out people from being able to access classic and important titles if they don’t yet own a Switch, or happen to be able to afford the (let’s be honest, fairly lofty) price points during its limited availability.
Nintendo can be a really good company, with a lot of quality games, but it is important to remember it is a company. They can disappoint you. But the good news is, companies pay attention to feedback and, most importantly, income. If you don’t want Nintendo to do this in future, I’d recommend you let it know.