The Super NES Classic Edition midnight release

September 29th, 2017

Today marks the release of the Super NES Classic Edition. I’ve been excited about the console, and determined to get my hands on one on release day, but have had trouble determining just how hard they’d be to come by. Nintendo has announced that they’re manufacturing them in greater numbers than last year’s extremely scarce NES Classic, and I called a few local stores, none of whom seemed to be expected anyone to line up or camp out overnight or anything. But there was a lot of hype surrounding the release and I’d seen a fair amount of chatter online about people camping out early for one.

My local Wal-mart is open 24 hours, and told me when I called earlier this week that they would begin selling the SNES Classic at midnight. I would have considered going there straight after work yesterday, but my company’s kickball team was playing in the league finals. (We won!) So I headed to Wal-mart straight from the kickball field and ended up arriving at about 10 o’clock to find myself 24th in line. (I would find out later that the first person in line had arrived at 6 o’clock, about the same time I’d have shown up had I come straight from work.) I asked the one of the employees manning the electronics department how many consoles they had available, and he couldn’t give me an exact number but assured me I had arrived in time to get one. Two more people showed up within minutes of my arrival, whereupon an employee started counting the number of people in line and suggested that all of the store’s available consoles were accounted for. He still didn’t seem certain about the exact number, but told us there were “about 25.” Two more people arrived together and got in line, though at this point the new arrivals were becoming anxious about the store actually having sufficient stock for them to get one.

I and a few others in line had been keeping an eye on BrickSeek to monitor store inventory. Most Wal-marts in the area were listed as having 20–30 SNES Classics in stock, but strangely this Wal-mart did not appear in BrickSeek’s listing at all. People started speculating about how the consoles were shipped to stores, and how that would affect the available quantity. Someone said that they arrived from the distributor in boxes of four, so “about 25” probably meant that there were 24 or 28 available. But someone else thought it was boxes of six, which meant 24 or 30. But BrickSeek showed some local stores has having an odd number of consoles in stock, so maybe the shipping configuration wasn’t really a factor. Basically, no one knew what that status was and there was a lot of confusion about availability, especially among those around my position as the 24th in line.

People continued to line up throughout the night; by the time midnight rolled around, there were at least 50, and probably 60 or 70 people in line. Even without an exact count I assumed most would go home disappointed. I think employees should have started turning people away long before that point, but those in the electronics department had disappeared, presumably to load the SNES Classic consoles onto a cart and prepare them for sale.

When the employees reappeared with a cart of the consoles, they had been stacked neatly such that it was easy to count how many there were: 28. A sign on the cart was unequivocal: “one per customer.” People around me in line started frantically counting again to make sure they knew exactly where they stood. There was even a police officer on hand to keep order, which never became an issue—everyone was polite, friendly, and well-behaved. Only a small number of people abandoned the line even after it became clear that there were far fewer consoles available than people who wanted them. I left the store immediately after purchasing mine, so I don’t know how things went down after they were sold out.

Super NES Classic Edition consoles ready for sale

Obviously I’m happy to have gotten my hands on the SNES Classic, but it’s disappointing that Wal-mart didn’t manage the release better. I would not have been happy to be one of those who waited in line only to be turned away at the last minute (and I was closer to being in that position than I’d have liked). Apparently other stores like Best Buy and Target use a ticketing system that takes the guesswork out of these large-scale releases. A few of the people in line behind me were vocally displeased that Wal-mart didn’t have a similar system in place.

Still, it was actually a fun experience and I enjoyed talking with the people in line around me. There was a group of college-age kids in front of me who were very friendly. Right behind me was a pleasant man who even left the line while we held his spot to get some folding chairs from another area of the store so a few of us could sit while we waited. And behind him was a mother with her two children who was excited to play the games she remembered from her youth and share them with her own children—I was especially glad to see that she was able to get one.

Super NES Classic Edition

Because it was nearly 1 o’clock in the morning by the time I got home with my purchase, I went straight to bed and have not actually played it as of this writing. But I’m looking forward to spending time playing some great games this weekend.

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