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Let's suppose that Nintendo announce tomorrow that they are going to create exact re-releases of the American and European NES, SNES and Nintendo 64 consoles, exactly the same as when they were originally sold, down to the packaging. As in, not even any new labels such as "Anniversary Edition" or anything. It literally is impossible to tell the difference between the new boxes and its contents from when it was originally sold.

They announce a schedule ahead of time so that they start selling these to match the time difference between each console's original release date. At least 100,000 copies of each console.

They do the same thing with the top-250 titles (in terms of commercial success) for each system, at least 100,000 copies for each game. Again, the games are released to match their relative dates when they were originally released.

Even if only collectors and hardcore nostalgics like myself buy these, wouldn't it very much make economic sense? Am I grossly overestimating the "retro market"?

It's impossible to collect/re-experience the games from my childhood today because they are insanely overpriced, or impossible to get hold of. And of course, Nintendo gets zero profits from somebody buying it second-hand (or more like 20th-hand at this point). To me, it appear as if Nintendo is allowing a lot of free money to go to waste.

Note: We are talking about Nintendo doing this properly, the way I describe it. Not some half-hearted nonsense.

I very much like the idea of buying an original Super Mario All-Stars, with "new manual smell", from Nintendo in the year 2021. They'd earn money and I'd get a copy which is impossible to tell apart from a copy I had kept in perfect condition for all these years. And the greedy auction site sellers would be stuck with worthless items.

I'm convinced that these copies would quickly sell out, and they could create more until the demand is finally met. Unless you have already spent decades paying insane prices to collect all the games, I can't see any reason why anyone would have anything against this. In fact, I wish that many other companies did the same thing with other classic products, but they never seem to.

Why not?

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    $\begingroup$ There are emulators and perhaps you can just print yourself a new manual? $\endgroup$
    – Giskard
    Oct 12, 2020 at 14:58

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I am unsure whether this qualifies as economics, but it would be something that might be discussed in business school. Furthermore, the answer is almost entirely engineering. As such, I will do this briefly.

  • Those “old” factories are probably in the same physical space as their current factories. They would need to build new facilities.
  • They would need suppliers to retool to manufacture obsolete electronics.
  • The cost of producing the old hardware would be much greater than using a modern CPU and emulator software, where they can package the entire library in one piece.
  • The video output would probably be useless on most modern TV’s.
  • Who is going to be willing to warehouse and retail these games? If they use emulator software, they can stick the entire library in one package, vs. one package for each old game.

These engineering problems imply a need for a large market, which is uncertain. Would collectors be willing to pay the same amount for copies of old games, or would they demand the “authentic” versions?

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It makes almost no economic sense for them to do this. A few things:

  1. Opportunity cost. As great and fun as these old games are, Nintendo wouldn't be able to charge very much for them relative to the price of a new product like a Switch. The reason you see higher prices for old consoles/games now is because of their scarcity. Re-producing them would eliminate the scarcity which drives their price up currently. Essentially, the used price of these consoles today may actually be greater than brand new prices of a reproduced vintage console. Potential profits would be significantly cut by using manufacturing/storage/advertising capital for old consoles rather than new ones.

  2. Niche Demand. Granted, I'm not doing any background research on this one, but I have to imagine there is a specific type of interest in these products. Young kids nowadays aren't going to prefer an NES over a Switch. This would create a situation where demand would get saturated very quickly after re-production began. Since I doubt people would be designing new games for these systems, the games people would be interested in would be purchased almost immediately leaving a very short horizon to earn profits for this company.

  3. Scarcity of inputs. A lot of the materials that were used to make the old N64/NES games are incredibly more scarce now than they were 20 years ago.

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Scarcity & Time.

The "retro market" exists because Nintendo has stopped producing the items you're referring to.

It's the scarcity and the high prices that sustain people's interest in the so called "retro market". People have the desire to find them and buy them because they are hard to find and because they usually cannot afford to buy them so finding the best deal and the rarest item is what keeps the "retro market" going.

If "old" Nintendo consoles and "old" Nintendo games were new (as in, reproduced by the factories today) they would become more available, they would carry no physical history on them and so the prices would drop and people would lose interest in them as the challenge of finding the best price and the rarest or the oldest (nostalgia) would be completely lost.

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