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November 2016 Retro Gaming Article

November 17, 2016 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Lurking behind the GameCenter name, how does WalMart offer NES Classic Edition consoles online all week?

While every US retailer sold through their sparse inventory of NES Classic Editions in minutes, does Walmart have a secret source or just enough to sell five-units-per-day for a week?
WalMart sells NES Classic Edition consoles Getting to Toys R Us an hour before opening last Friday enabled me to buy one NES Classic Edition console and one additional controller. I'd read up on the demand the night before and prepared for large lines and disappointment. Living in a low-population area probably helped greatly, but ultimately it was all luck.

In my opinion, Nintendo staged this release poorly. No pre-orders and low inventory was pitted against rabid fan interest. the result was very few folks were able to buy this wonderful little gaming beast.

After prices on eBay surged to 5-times the retail price of $59, it became a different kind of story. The idea that Nintendo would be restocking soon for the holidays was replaced with "limited release" and "buy now or lose forever". This ridiculous banter was click-bait for those who sought attention - and they got it. Gamers were going to great lengths to snag one of Nintendo's mini consoles.

Frenzy erupted and everyone needed an NES Classic Edition RIGHT NOW! Retailers were empty handed with no news about re-stocking or future deliveries. Nintendo assured us more would be coming, but that wasn't nearly enough reassurance to stem the stampede to online auctions.

WalMart GameCenter logo

WalMart to the Rescue?

For those who didn't want to pay $300 in online auctions, there didn't seem to be any hope until Amazon opened up online orders at 5pm EST. Customers logged on, loaded their carts, and watched a variety of distressed server reactions - none of which resulted in sales. Carts reverted to zero, froze up, or simply sat there doing nothing. This was the online equivalent of the brick & mortar disappointment.

Earlier this week WalMart (of all unlikely places) announced on Facebook that they would conduct online sales each day this week beginning at 5pm EST. Their disclaimer was "while supplies last," with no mention of how many units will be available each day.

This offer is rife with the trappings of luring folks to the site to purchase... anything. From what I've heard, it's the Amazon-fail all over again - daily. I'm not seeing any online posts stating WalMart saved the day. How many units do they have? Where did they come from?

Here's what I'd do...

...if I wanted to capitalize on the shortage via my dominantly overbearing box-store:
Last Thursday night - at the latest - most retailers knew they had very limited stock. Individual sores were offering anywhere from 2 to 20 units. Some may have had more, but most locations cold have sold through 30 or 40 units easily. It wouldn't take a genius to realize demand will outpace supply quickly.

So, how do I get customers to come to my e-commerce site in droves? Pull stock from each store. Further reduce available brick & mortar inventory. Keep it from the public... just for a few days. Take that inventory and advertise it - maybe on Facebook - as available daily for the entire week!

How it this possible," customers may ask. I'm betting WalMart put a lot of NES Classic Editions into their online inventory and simply allowed a limited number of sales, each day, until the inventory was depleted. All the other retailers who sold through all their inventory would be part of the "Sold out in minutes" narrative. The following week, WalMart, acting as gamer-friendly GameCenter, suddenly has stock for the week. They may only have had five systems to sell each day, but I'll bet they got a ton of traffic to their website... that sells a lot of other stuff.

I could be wrong about this, but I think its a question worth asking. How is it that only WalMart has stock the week after this product sells out nationally in the US? Did they withhold stock on release day in order to sell it when no one else would be able to? Something odd is going on here. Probably nothing illegal, but definitely odd.

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