Why Are So Many Mario Games Getting Erased This Spring?

COG Considers: What’s Your Game Plan Here Nintendo

Digital games can vanish at any time, the moment the publisher decides it’s a good idea. All of our vast libraries are balanced on rotting planks over a bubbling swamp, and that’s okay! We’ve grown accustomed to this paradigm. What Nintendo is doing is slightly different. They’re giving consumers a window in which to acquire these things, be they physical or digital, before they slip over the horizon for good. While games have always disappeared from store shelves after a time, this feels more deliberate. In fact, it’s almost sinister.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars

To demonstrate, consider this: could you go to the store and grab a brand new copy of Xenoblade Chronicles? Of course not! It’s a phantom, an absolute unicorn of a game. I don’t mean the Switch version, either. I’m talking the original Wii release. What about Metroid Prime? What about Earthbound? Games have -quite literally- a limited shelf life. Seeing an older title disappear from stores is a totally normal thing. Nintendo is taking a natural part of the industry and amplifying it. They’re manufacturing scarcity, you see. We don’t notice when a game isn’t for sale anymore. It happens all the time! But when a publisher shines a spotlight on that artificial expiration date? Suddenly it’s a big deal.

Nothing drives you to acquire a thing like the knowledge that it’s going away soon. That’s why sales are only for this week, why ‘limited edition’ fries our circuits, why pre-orders always sell like hotcakes. Your instinct on hearing that Nintendo is doing this might be to get mad. Maybe you’re all steamed that they would disrespect their customers like this. And you’re right! They’re essentially trying to bypass your common sense, getting you to buy something just because it’s here for a limited time.

And you know what? It totally worked! Super Mario 3D All Stars sold over 5 million units in less than two weeks! If every game they hit with an expiration date has sales like this, expect the trend to continue. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘limited run’ became the standard for most Nintendo titles. At the very least, they’ll keep using the strategy until the buying public figures out their angle. If you’re ever confused about a major publisher’s behavior, if you ever wonder why they did something so foolish, know that money is almost certainly their impetus.