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Scarcity of retro consoles when they were originally released

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While browsing on reddit earlier, and discussing the whole scarcity of the Mini NES, someone posed the question whether other consoles (outside of those Nintendo have made) have seen the same issue before with low supply and high demand, scalpers buying them up, not being able to find them, etc. And while I do recall the PS3 and PS4 were initially difficult to find, it actually made me wonder about how things were in the past.

 

So I thought I'd pose the question here and try to get a little insight from people who may recall: Were some of our beloved retro systems, when they were new to market, subject to the same problems we see with consoles like the Wii and the NES Mini? Does anyone remember if the Atari 2600, Colecovision, Intellivision, etc., were hard to find when they were first introduced to the market, and especially around the holidays, or were they just kinda always there and easily available to anyone that wanted one?

 

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I remember the Nintendo 64 being impossible to find during holiday season 1996. My mom had her co-worker procure one for her through some new auction site on the internet called "eBay" for about $350 and had it shipped overnight all the way from Colorado to Texas, in order to arrive in time for Xmas. Aside from being insanely jealous that my little sister got the N64 instead of me, it was the best Xmas ever that year with Mario 64!

 

I was too young at the launch of Intellivison, Colecovision, etc to know about scarcity, but I bought a Genesis at launch in 1989 with no trouble. Of course there were certainly massive shortages for PS2 (probably the most insane launch in my memory with systems selling for $1000 on eBay) and Wii. Dreamcast and Gamecube I had preordered so I can't remember launch scarcity with those systems.

 

Nintendo has always been king of artificial scarcity, like with this NES Mini. I remember having a hard time finding Legend of Zelda, Zelda II and SMB2 upon release.

Edited by glazball

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I don't think console launches were as big of a deal, not until maybe the Sony Playstation came along in 1995, on a wave of pre-release hype and some very cool (for the time) launch games. The early Sega Saturn units were anything but scarce.

 

I seriously doubt there was a line to buy the Atari VCS or Magnavox Odyssey 2 when they first launched, because the early games on those systems were way worse than what would come later. I was pretty young then, so I can't say for sure, though. I bought a Super Nintendo only a few months after launch, when it only had a handful of games.

 

PS2 was the first one I remember not being able to just buy on launch day. I had trouble believing it even then, since the launch lineup was pretty poor. Everything after that has been very supply constrained. I remember not being able to get one of the launch shipments of GameCube from the game stores without ordering a bundle of at least three games, which I think is obnoxious.

 

Midnight launch "events," pre-orders, more marketing, and more general popularity of game consoles contribute to this change, in my opinion.

 

On the other hand, I've always been able to buy all the GBA, DS, and 3DS variants on launch day. PSP, PSPGo, and Vita, too. I honestly thought NES Classic Mini would be more like that, no bid deal.

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I remember the Nintendo 64 being impossible to find during holiday season 1996.

That was a hot one. I can't remember how I got mine, whether I put down a reservation at a place like Babbages, or just walked into a Kay-Bee Toys that didn't do pre-orders? I remember feeling lucky to have one, but not like it was the rarest thing in the world, or anything that would command way more than retail price.

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If we broaden the question to including computers, I remember that IBM got caught on bed with the demand for the original IBM PC, the 5150 model. It took them 1.5 - 2 years to introduce it on European markets, due to the demand in the USA was so overwhelming. Of course that was an expensive business computer, but IBM manufacturing it and with support of major software companies made it a big demand item more or less overnight.

 

I also remember that the Commodore 64 sold so well, in particular after the price cuts in 1983, that foreign importers could only get a fraction of the number of units they could sell.

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I don't remember consoles selling out at launch until the N64 came out. I ended up just waiting a year or two to buy it, and that was because of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Mine was the one that came with the Atomic Purple controller, so whenever that came out was when I got one.

 

The only console I was locked and loaded to buy at launch was the Playstation 2. I wanted that thing BAD. I think it launched in October, and I had to wait until March to find one in the store, as they were constantly sold out everywhere. Same thing happened with the Wii.

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After Space Invaders came out for the 2600, it was sold out in a lot of places during that holiday season. I don't recall the exact details, just that it was difficult to find the console.

 

The ColecoVision was difficult to find during the 1983 holiday shopping season. My father looked for weeks before finally finding one at Montgomery Ward.

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I seriously doubt there was a line to buy the Atari VCS or Magnavox Odyssey 2 when they first launched, because the early games on those systems were way worse than what would come later. I was pretty young then, so I can't say for sure, though. I bought a Super Nintendo only a few months after launch, when it only had a handful of games.

 

No. Lines didn't form because people were not that crazy for videogames back then. They had yet to become a phenomenononen like they are today. Most people first discovered the VCS by seeing it in the store.

 

It had nothing to do with the quality or quantity of games they had then.

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The ColecoVision was difficult to find during the 1983 holiday shopping season. My father looked for weeks before finally finding one at Montgomery Ward.

 

I believe ColecoVision had the most pre-launch hype and press coverage of the day. Not that it wasn't warranted. It was a good system.

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No. Lines didn't form because people were not that crazy for videogames back then. They had yet to become a phenomenononen like they are today. Most people first discovered the VCS by seeing it in the store.

 

It had nothing to do with the quality or quantity of games they had then.

Why do you suppose we weren't crazy for games back then? It's because home versions of Asteroids, Space Invaders, and Pac-Man were years away.

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It took time for word to spread. Not like the Internet of today that spreads everything instantly.

Edited by Keatah

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I don't remember any news of a line, but the Intellivision was difficult to find when it was first released. I got mine in Christmas of 1980, and my dad had a real hard time finding it. In fact, he used that fact to trick me into thinking I wasn't getting one. He "prepared" me for the fact that I might have to wait until the following year because they just weren't easy to get. So I went nuts when he sent me out to the garage to bring in the laundry and I saw it sitting on top of the washing machine.

 

Of course, in those days there was no internet, so these types of shortages might have been a lot more regional than they are now. We lived in South San Francisco and there were not many around in a 50 mile radius, but even in other California towns they may have been easier to get.

 

Production numbers in those days were also a lot lower, though, so big spikes in demand, especially around holidays, could more easily result in shortages even long after a system's release. If a factory's only geared up to produce 10,000 units a month and suddenly there are 30,000 people that want a console... I mean that's not huge demand but it is going to result in a shortage. And I do remember that with both the Intellivision and Coleco Vision, at least. (My friend called me up when she got her CV literally screaming over the phone because it was well known that you couldn't buy one anywhere at the time.)

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PlayStation and Jaguar.

I was after the pre-release of the Atari Jaguar, but no luck, still had to wait almost 1/2 year before its official release.

PlayStation was sold out so quickly, I think it was the fastest selling console in history.

 

I don't see any scarcity of the Mini NES, masses available online.

Edited by high voltage

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Why do you suppose we weren't crazy for games back then? It's because home versions of Asteroids, Space Invaders, and Pac-Man were years away.

It wasn't the games themselves, but the idea of video games. It took a leap of faith to put down hundreds of dollars on a device that you had no idea about.

 

The 2600 was ~$800 (inflation adjusted) at launch, how many people were going to pluck down that amount of cash? And for something that could be as useful as a pet rock?

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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9/9/1999 is a day that will always recall fondly:)

 

I remember there being shortages and Holiday rushes for PlayStation, N64, Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox 360, and the Wii. To a lesser extent for the Xbox, Gamecube, and PS3. Compared to all of those, the demand for the Saturn and Jaguar was markedly lower around their launches. At least around here. And my younger self would be shocked at my own lack of interest in any of the current stuff.

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It was only until the original Playstation that I ever experienced difficulty obtaining a console when I had enough cash for purchase. To double down on the disappointment I had to immediately return the first one due to overheating and non functional CD.

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The Intellivision quietly went national in mid 1980. The hype started later when heavy TV advertising started for the Christmas season. I remember the TV commercials, and seeing them in all the department stores. I would never had expected to get one before Christmas. I didnt get one that Christmas anyway, I think I was told they were too expensive. They were very expensive and not something too many people could afford without some serious thought.

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Except for George Plimpton, that international man of mystery sure knew the difference between Intellivision and Atari. :-D

 

 

I'm sure TV and print advertising had a huge effect on the success or failure of toys and games like this back then, much more so than today.

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The PS2 was the first example I can think of where the console was legitimately hard to get. My parents waltzed into Target and picked up the N64 and later the Dreamcast on day 1, no problem.

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Right around the time that console shortages became a thing, holiday console sellouts also became a thing. I worked at Circuit City during the PS2-PS3 transition era (so, 2003 through 2007) and every time the holidays rolled around, it became impossible to keep ANY console on the shelves. Consoles were just the "in" thing to give at that time. Someone came in for a PS2, we were out, they left with an Xbox. If we were out of Xboxes, they left with a GameCube. BUT THEY WERE LEAVING WITH SOMETHING, DAGNABBIT!!!!

 

As you can imagine, I find this behavior puzzling as a fan of video games. If I want a particular console, I'm not going to "settle" for another just to make a purchase that day. I'll drive to another store or do without. But to these people, there HAD to be a console under the tree that year, details be damned!!!*

 

Anyway, I observed this behavior lasting through at least 2010, when the tablet craze finally took off and consoles were no longer the sexist Christmas gift you could have. I imagine there are still some people who think that way, though.

 

My point, and I do have one, is that it makes sense that shortages of specific consoles started at the same time that consoles were in short supply across the board.

 

 

*To elaborate further on this, the behavior is what I came to refer to as a "Thoughtless Thoughtful Gift", when someone wants to buy a present for someone that appears to have a lot of thought put into it, but in reality they don't give a crap if the person is actually happy with it. They just want to be the cool uncle/aunt bringing video games to the house, show off the fact that the can drop $400 on you on a whim, but have no real regard for the fact that you can't play Final Fantasy on the Xbox they just got you. These people also loved digital cameras too. I would frequently see them come in for camera x, which was out of stock, and they would just say "Let's get so-and-so camera y instead!" When I'd explain that camera y wasn't nearly as good of a camera, they'd inevitably say "I don't care, we can scratch him off our list and be done with him."

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From what I remember:

 

Colecovision for a short stint during the Cabbage Patch doll fiasco. When the dolls were sold out and the ONLY way you could get one was with the purchase of a CV system, guess what? There were a lot of people that didn't give a damn (or considered it ancillary to the dolls) about the console that quickly found themselves in possession of one. A lot of siblings that didn't particularly ask for a Colecovision, sure as shoot ended up receiving one thanks to their sister wanting the doll. :lol:

 

I worked at Wards when the TG-16 was released. While the systems themselves were pretty much always in stock (past the Christmas season anyway), I do remember there being shortages of the CD-ROM unit. Damn that box was huge! Have fond memories of how we used to display them though, on white 4ft shelving sections, with the smaller TG-16 console sitting on a shelf right above. Used to suggestive the sell the CD-ROM unit with every TG-16 of course, but at $400 was incredibly tough to do to say the least. ;) Not that we ever stocked a ton of them, but people would eventually trickle back in to purchase that bad boy. lol

 

The Amiga 1200 was in extremely short supply and was really tough to get at first. Had to wait weeks before I finally got mine. Same with the CD32. Talk about another fiasco at the time though! People say it wasn't released in America, but it was - just only through mail order was the thing. Got mine from the Software Hut BITD.

 

Jaguar was definitely hyped and anticipation was huge everywhere in Chicagoland. Was tough to get one for a while.

 

Sony PSX for sure and I remember the Saturn too when it was *first* released. Had my Saturn at launch though because a friend at Babbages held one for me. $400 - ouch!

 

Don't really remember the N64 being that big a sellout. Pretty sure I had mine at launch.

 

The one thing I remember being kinda big when released was The Miracle Piano. And not just for Nintendo. That thing was popular universally as grandparents and parents alike wanted them for their children.

 

Don't remember the XBox, Dreamcast or GameCube being all that stupendously hot either. Had all of them at or right around launch. With exception of the PS2 which I bought toward the end, pretty much stopped giving a damn about consoles shortly after those. :lol:

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The only system I own that was hard to get upon release was the Pearl Pink original DS. My now-fiancé somehow managed to get the last one in our area. Talking to friends online after Christmas, I was the only one who actually got the pink one. For months, if I had it on me going into a game store, the clerk always commented on it.

 

Then the lite came out and nobody gave a f*ck about it anymore. Supply & demand is kind of weird that way.

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Wasn't big into getting systems right when they came out back then. Maybe the first system I got on day one was the GBA, and it was like nothing. Come in at open, stand behind 3-4 others, and walk out no hassle.

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