Last year Nintendo shadow-dropped a Direct presentation specifically for the 35th anniversary of Super Mario. During this presentation, they revealed that three of Mario’s 3D adventures would be released in a single collection on Nintendo Switch, a Super Mario Bros. style battle royale spin-off, a Super Mario Game and Watch, and a host of other things.
What struck most people about this presentation though was the dates involved. Not only did these products have release dates, like most things, but they also had end dates, believe it or not. The Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection and other celebratory tie-ins have been unavailable since March 31st, 2021. In fact, this baffling decision led to criticisms about these products in reviews at the time of their original launch.
For Nintendo, this is a savvy albeit familiar decision, the Japanese gaming giant being one of the biggest perpetrators when it comes to artificial scarcity. By creating a limited product, they create a greater need for people to buy it now so they don’t “miss out”. They did it previously with amiibo and the NES/SNES Mini consoles, and they’ve done it again here. What’s more, it has worked, with Super Mario 3D All Stars selling over 8 million copies by the end of 2020 and sales noticeably surging in the days and weeks leading up to March 31st. So it all worked out great for them from a business perspective.
Nintendo were within their rights to impose a limited availability window for these products, and were clearly right in what would this would achieve, but that doesn’t make it the right thing to do.
What this does, if I’m honest, is set a dangerous precedent. As Nintendo were entirely successful in what they set out to do, there’s little to dissuade them from doing so again, and they already have since. It’s pretty reasonable to assume that the reason that Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light was also removed from sale on March 31st is because Nintendo looked at the sales figures of Super Mario 3D All Stars and their eyes comically lit up with dollar signs like Scrooge McDuck.
In the current climate where games preservation is growing in importance (you only need to look at the furore over Sony’s closure of the legacy PlayStation Store) there’s now several games that are now unavailable to purchase anywhere. Then, with some of these again being digital only, they are either lost to the ether entirely now or only available to play now for those that got them during the limited availability window. It’s not like these are limited editions or anything, which would be a touch more acceptable.
Truthfully, this was a rather lacklustre celebration of such a colossal gaming icon, with such a short timeframe allowed for the revelry, and a far cry from similar celebrations we’ve had previously. It also gives me concerns about other future anniversaries, what with both Metroid and Zelda also reaching milestones this year too. Super Mario deserved better, as did Nintendo fans – if you weren’t fast or fortunate enough to lock down a copy of 3D All-Stars then prepare to find your wallet gouged by scalpers.