We don’t exist in a bubble here at Nintendo Life, and there’s many a time we’ve glanced over other sites and spotted a feature that makes us jealous we didn’t think of writing it first. One such piece is this excellent RetroBeat feature by Mike Minotti over on VentureBeat, which asks one very reasonable question: Hey Nintendo, remember those cool mini-consoles?
It’s amazing to think that Nintendo announced the NES Classic Edition back in 2016, before the Switch had made it to market. Our news story covering the announcement was one of the most popular of the entire year, and the console went on to sell a whopping 3.6 million units worldwide before Nintendo pulled it from production. It followed up with the SNES Classic Edition in 2017 – which sold 5.28 million – but hasn’t produced any other micro-consoles since then.
Of course, we’ve not been starved of similar products – SNK, Konami and Sega have all riffed on the concept, producing the Mega Drive Mini, Neo Geo Mini and PC Engine Mini (Sega even miniaturised its Game Gear and paid tribute to its arcade heritage with the Astro City Mini) – but that doesn’t hide the fact that Nintendo has seemingly left money on the table by not creating a successor to the SNES Classic Edition.
As to why this might be, only Nintendo knows for sure. The release of the Switch could well be the main cause; Nintendo now offers NES and SNES games as part of its Nintendo Switch Online service, and would probably rather have customers buy a Switch and a subscription rather than a tiny console that sits under your TV and cannot be monetized beyond the initial purchase.
Another potential stumbling block could be the power of the off-the-shelf Allwinner R16 chipset which beats at the heart of both the NES and SNES Classic Editions; it might not be powerful enough to emulate the N64 (the next logical candidate for ‘Classic Edition’ treatment) to an acceptable standard. Given that Nintendo developed the emulator for both previous systems in-house at NERD, it could simply be that the company isn’t willing to throw resources at creating a decent N64 emulator at this stage. Instead, Nintendo could be focusing on getting N64 games onto Nintendo Switch Online in the near future.
There were hopes that we’d see a Game Boy ‘Classic Edition’ at some point – not a product that would necessarily benefit from miniaturisation, of course, but one which could offer a bunch of classic Game Boy titles with a better screen but all contained in that iconic brick-like casing. Despite rumours, there’s been nothing official announced from Nintendo.
It’s a shame, because the sales figures suggest that there’s room in Nintendo’s catalogue for both Classic Editions and the Switch. Indeed, we dare say that many people who bought one also own the other; they made for ideal Christmas stocking fillers, after all, and are a convenient and nostalgic means of reconnecting with Nintendo’s gaming past. Heck, Nintendo even used the SNES Classic Edition as a vehicle to resurrect the unreleased Star Fox 2, so it clearly had a lot of faith in the approach at one point.
Why that faith has vanished is very much up for debate, but for the time being, it would appear that Classic Edition consoles don’t figure in Nintendo’s plans moving forward (both models have now ceased production) – and that’s a real shame.